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EU tells Italy: ‘No special treatment for France’ over budget rules

European Commissioner said "The rules are the same for everybody" after Italian ministers cried foul over deficit rules.

EU tells Italy: 'No special treatment for France' over budget rules
European Commissioner for Economic Affairs Pierre Moscovici. Photo: Aris Oikonomou/AFP

France and Italy will not be held to different standards on their budget deficits, European Commissioner for Economic Affairs Pierre Moscovici told AFP.

Rome, facing possible EU sanctions over its big-spending budget, has demanded similar treatment for France where President Emmanuel Macron's concessions to “yellow vest” protestors threaten to blow-out deficit targets.

“There is no question of privileged treatment for some and exaggerated toughness for others,” Moscovici said on the sidelines of a financial conference in Frankfurt.

READ ALSO: EU slams Italy's 'unprecedented' breaking of budget rules

But the official – himself a former French finance minister – added that “the rules are quite subtle and complex”, pointing to wiggle room for Paris and the Commission.

Brussels understands that “in the face of social movements and very strong demands to reduce regional or social disintegration, a government may need to take measures,” Moscovici said.

Macron announced late Monday 10 billion euros of concessions including an increase to the minimum wage and tax relief for pensioners and on overtime work.

Rome immediately cried foul, saying that Brussels should be just as strict with the French leader as with the government in Italy.

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said “there will be a French problem” on top of an Italian one if France's deficit breaches EU rules after Emmanuel Macron unveiled measures to quell protests.

“France will have to increase its deficit and there will be a problem for France, if the rules are the same for everyone,” said Di Maio.

The country is redrafting its budget for next year after a first-ever rejection from the Commission.

But Moscovici noted that while deficit rules allow governments a one-off breach of the EU's three-percent limit, Italy's proposed budget would have overstepped it for three years.

What's more, Italy's existing debt burden was much heavier than France's, at 130 compared with 100 percent of GDP, he said.

“My hope is to find solutions” with both countries, Moscovici added.

“For Italy that means turning the debt trend around, and for France that the overspend we can see coming should be as limited as possible.”

READ ALSO: 'Budget of change': Italy announces plans to end austerity

ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Who can vote in Italy’s elections?

With Italy's next general election scheduled for September 25th, who is eligible to vote - and how can those who are do so?

Who can vote in Italy's elections?

Who can vote in Italy?

For the upcoming election in September, the answer is simple: only Italian citizens are eligible to vote in Italy’s general elections.

Foreign EU nationals who are resident in Italy can register to vote in municipal and European parliamentary elections, but national elections are reserved for Italians only.

Until recently, not even all Italian adults could participate fully in the process: just last year, voters needed to be over the age of 25 to take part in senate elections.

That finally changed with a reform passed by parliament in July 2021. It’s now the case that any citizen over the age of 18 can vote for their representatives in both the lower house and the senate (both ballots are held at the same time).

READ ALSO: An introductory guide to the Italian political system

You don’t need to be resident in Italy to vote; Italian citizens living abroad can register to vote via post.

In fact, Italy is unusual in assigning a set number of MPs and senators to ‘overseas constituencies’ that represent the interests of Italians abroad.

These constituencies are split into four territories: a) Europe; b) South America; c) Northern and Central America; d) Africa, Asia, Oceania and Antarctica. Each zone gets at least one MP and one senator, with the others distributed in proportion to the number of Italian residents.

Up until recently, there were as many as 12 MPs and six senators dedicated to overseas constituencies. This will drop to eight MPs and four senators from September, thanks to another reform enacted in late 2020.

READ ALSO: Why has Italy’s government collapsed in the middle of summer?

How can you vote?

While Italy has a postal vote option for citizens living abroad, Italians resident in Italy must vote in the town in which they are registered to vote (i.e., their comune, or municipality of residency), at the specific polling station assigned to them.

What's behind Italy's declining voter turnout?

Italian citizens who are resident in Italy can only vote in person. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP.

The lack of a postal vote for Italians in Italy is thought to be one of the main factors behind Italy’s declining turnout in elections, and a parliamentary committee on elections has advised introducing one to help remedy the situation; but for now, only in-person votes count.

READ ALSO: What’s behind the decline in Italian voter turnout?

Italians living abroad who are on the electoral register should receive their ballot papers (pink for the Chamber of Deputies, yellow for the senate) from their consulate in the lead up to the election. Their completed ballots must arrive back at the consulate no later than 4pm local time on September 22nd.

Those who haven’t received their ballot papers by September 11th should contact their consulate to request that the documents be resent.

Italians in Italy must have a tessera elettorale, or voter’s card, to be allowed to vote in person. The card contains the holder’s full name, date of birth, address and polling station. Every time the holder goes to vote, the card – which takes the form of a piece of reinforced folded paper – is stamped.

The tessera elettorale should be automatically sent out to Italians at their home address when they reach the age of 18; for those who acquire citizenship and move to Italy later in life, it should be automatically sent to their address by the comune where they are registered as a resident.

If the tessera gets lost, damaged, or becomes filled up with stamps, the holder should request a new card from their comune. 

When an individual moves towns, they should turn in their tessera in order to receive a new one from their new comune. For those who move house but stay in the same town, their comune should send an official slip confirming the new address that can be used to update their tessera.

Anyone who hasn’t automatically received a tessera elettorale and is entitled to one should contact their comune to claim theirs.

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