Italy’s government defied the European Commission on Tuesday by sticking to its big-spending budget plan, risking financial sanctions in a high-stakes standoff with Brussels.
Despite pressure from the European Commission, which rejected Rome’s budget outright last month in a first for the EU, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio vowed to stand firm on the country’s anti-austerity plans.
“The budget will not change, neither in its balance sheet nor in its growth forecast. We have the conviction that this is the budget needed for the country to get going again,” Di Maio, who leads the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), said on Tuesday evening after a ministerial meeting.
M5S and its coalition partner, the League, insist the budget will help kickstart growth in the eurozone’s third largest economy and reduce the public debt and deficit. League head Matteo Salvini, who is also a deputy prime minister, vowed on Monday to put his back into “defending the budget, as if it were a rugby scrum”.
The Commission had given Italy until Tuesday to make changes to its 2019 plans and warned non-compliance could activate the “excessive deficit procedure” (EDP), a complicated process that could lead to fines and possibly provoke a strong, adverse market reaction.
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