Eurozone ministers urge Italy: ‘Rethink your budget’

Eurozone finance ministers urged Italy on Thursday to rethink its budget and avoid a painful row with Brussels that could endanger the European economy as a whole.

Eurozone ministers urge Italy: 'Rethink your budget'
Italy's Economy and Finance Minister Giovanni Tria (R) at the Eurogroup meeting at the EU headquarters in Luxembourg on June 13. Photo: JOHN THYS / AFP

“I would like Italy to take the hand extended by the commission and implement the appropriate measures,” said French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire as he arrived for talks with his eurozone counterparts in Luxembourg.

Italy's debt ratio, at 132 percent of gross domestic product, is the second biggest in the eurozone after Greece.

This is way above the 60 percent EU ceiling, with the commission convinced that the debt will keep ramping up, leaving Italy vulnerable to economic shocks that could spill over to the rest of Europe.

READ ALSO: European stocks drop as trouble brews between Rome and Brussels

“There are rules in the eurozone, we all try to respect them,” added Le Maire, whose country has also fallen foul of EU budget rules in recent years.

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, last week formally put populist-led Italy on notice for blowing belt-tightening commitments.

The process, known as an excessive deficit procedure, could lead to billions in fines, though this remains unprecedented and highly unlikely.

“In the end the rules are not just something which is written on paper, they have reasons,” said German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz.


Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Italian finance minister Giovanni Tria is in Luxembourg for talks with the European Commission on averting the threat of fines for breaking EU rules.

Tria told Italian media he had “ruled out” the possibility of the government approving an additional “corrective budget” to head off the threat of penalties.

“We are negotiating on the deficit targets that we have,” he said.


Meanwhile, Tria is also reportedly resisting attempts by Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini to press ahead with yet more spending, including tax cuts promised by Salvini's League party, estimated to cost at least 30 billion euros.

The coalition of the hard-right League and anti-establishment Five Star Movement is deeply divided on how to handle the offensive by Brussels, with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte threatening to resign if the squabbling did not stop.

European economic affairs commissioner Pierre Moscovici, who is meeting Tria for talks, said his door was open to Rome and hoped for new proposals.

“I am in listening mode because while the door is open, we also want new elements to go through it,” he said.

READ ALSO: 2.7 million people apply for Italy's basic income scheme

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Protesters gather in Milan as Italy limits same-sex parents’ rights

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Milan on Saturday in protest against a new government directive stopping local authorities from registering the births of same-sex couples' children.

Protesters gather in Milan as Italy limits same-sex parents' rights

“You explain to my son that I’m not his mother,” read one sign held up amid a sea of rainbow flags that filled the northern city’s central Scala Square.

Italy legalised same-sex civil unions in 2016, but opposition from the Catholic Church meant it stopped short of granting gay couples the right to adopt.

Decisions have instead been made on a case-by-case basis by the courts as parents take legal action, although some local authorities decided to act unilaterally.

Milan’s city hall had been recognising children of same-sex couples conceived overseas through surrogacy, which is illegal in Italy, or medically assisted reproduction, which is only available for heterosexual couples.

But its centre-left mayor Beppe Sala revealed earlier this week that this had stopped after the interior ministry sent a letter insisting that the courts must decide.

READ ALSO: Milan stops recognising children born to same-sex couples

“It is an obvious step backwards from a political and social point of view, and I put myself in the shoes of those parents who thought they could count on this possibility in Milan,” he said in a podcast, vowing to fight the change.

Milan's mayor Giuseppe Sala

Milan’s mayor Giuseppe Sala has assured residents that he will fight to have the new government directive overturned. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Fabrizio Marrazzo of the Gay Party said about 20 children are waiting to be registered in Milan, condemning the change as “unjust and discriminatory”.

A mother or father who is not legally recognised as their child’s parent can face huge bureaucratic problems, with the risk of losing the child if the registered parent dies or the couple’s relationship breaks down.

Elly Schlein, newly elected leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, was among opposition politicians who attended the protest on Saturday, where many campaigners railed against the new government.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, whose Brothers of Italy party came top in the September elections, puts a strong emphasis on traditional family values.

“Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby!” she said in a speech last year before her election at the head of a right-wing coalition that includes Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League.

Earlier this week, a Senate committee voted against an EU plan to oblige member states to recognise the rights of same-sex parents granted elsewhere in the bloc.