Renzi vows to publish cost of EU 'palaces'

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Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said "we're going to have some fun" publishing data "on everything that is spent by these palaces". Photo: Emanuel Dunand/AFP
07:49 CEST+02:00
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Thursday announced his intention to make public the cost of the European institutions, as a row exploded over his country's budget plans.

European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso sharply criticised Italy earlier on Thursday for publishing a letter from the EU requesting clarifications on Rome's rule-breaking budget.

Renzi, attending an EU summit in Brussels, responded with his promise to shed light on Brussels' own spending.

"We will publish data on everything that is spent by these palaces. We're going to have some fun," he said on the margins of the summit.

He added that he was surprised at Barroso's response to the publication of the EU letter, as the details had already published by the Financial Times and an Italian daily.

"The Italian budget poses no problems," he insisted.

Hours before the EU summit, the Italian finance ministry released a letter from the EU's Economic Affairs Commissioner Jyrki Katainen, marked "strictly confidential", drawing the fury of Barroso.

The president of the EU's executive said the Commission was against this "unilateral" decision by the Italian government, preferring that negotiations on its budget take place behind closed doors.

Barroso, who steps down on October 31st, said the Commission was "in consultations" with several countries over infringement of the rules and "it's better this happen in a context of trust".

French President Francois Hollande said his country had also received an EU Commission letter requiring a reply by the end of the week.

The dialogue with Brussels continues "in very good conditions", he said, stressing France's commitment to EU budgetary rules but "with the maximum flexibility".

French officials said that there was no intention to publicise the details of the "a private letter".

France's budget forecast shows a 4.3 percent GDP deficit in 2015, far above the expected three percent.

Last week, member states which use the euro currency submitted their spending plans for next year to the Commission, which won vast new powers of oversight from member states at the height of the eurozone debt crisis.

The Commission has so far refused to confirm or deny that France and Italy, along with Austria, Slovenia, Malta and Finland have all been notified that their submissions are problematic.

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In Italy's case, the budget squarely misses structural reform commitments, even though it forecasts a deficit well within the EU's three percent of output ceiling.

The Commission has until Wednesday to decide whether Italy and the other countries are in "serious" breach of the rules, and the letter was the official warning that it may do so.

But admonishing France and Italy, the second and third-biggest eurozone economies, and formally demanding a change to their budget would be a huge political risk.

The fallout in France, with soaring unemployment and a stagnant economy, is especially a worry with the anti-EU far right becoming a dominant force.

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