Budget: Brussels demands ‘clarification’ from Italy over spending plan

The European Commission demanded urgent clarifications from Italy over its budget plans for next year, worried it will veer from spending cut commitments made to Brussels.

Budget: Brussels demands 'clarification' from Italy over spending plan
Valdis Dombrovskis, EU commission vice president. Photo: AFP

A letter from the EU's executive arm  on Tuesday could be the first step before the commission rejects a budget outright and demands a new draft.

READ ALSO: What Italy's new budget proposals mean for foreign residents

France, Spain, Belgium and Finland were also contacted over budget concerns.

“Italy's plan does not comply with the debt reduction benchmark in 2020,” said a letter signed by EU economics affairs commissioner Pierre Moscovici and commission vice president Valdis Dombrovskis.

Rome sent its budget on Wednesday hoping to get Brussels to agree to a deficit of 2.2 percent of GDP, which the EU said risked delaying the reduction of Rome's massive debt mountain.

The spending plans were the product of fraught negotiations between the new coalition in Italy, an unlikely partnership between the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the centre-left Democratic Party.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

“We will provide all clarifications to the EU, we are not concerned,” said Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

“It is a necessary dialogue with Brussels from which we will not escape”.

A year ago, the The European Commission for the first time ever rejected a national budget when it turned down Italy's controversial 2019 spending plans, submitted by the previous government, a populist far-right coalition.

After months of loudly refusing to make changes, Italy later accepted the tighter spending and debt reduction demanded by Brussels and revised its spending plan.


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Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy’s elections

Scandal-plagued former premier Silvio Berlusconi said he plans to return to Italy's parliament in upcoming elections, almost a decade after being forced out over a conviction for tax fraud.

Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy's elections

“I think that, in the end, I will be present myself as a candidate for the Senate, so that all these people who asked me will finally be happy,” the 85-year-old billionaire and media mogul told Rai radio on Wednesday.

After helping bring down Prime Minister Mario Draghi last month by withdrawing its support, Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party looks set to return to power in elections on September 25th.

It is part of a right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy, which includes Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League.

Berlusconi brushed off reports he is worried about the possibility of Meloni – whose motto is “God, country and family” – becoming prime minister.

Noting the agreement between the parties that whoever wins the most votes chooses the prime minister, he said: “If it is Giorgia, I am sure she will prove capable of the difficult task.”

READ ALSO: Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

But he urged voters to back his party as the moderate voice in the coalition, emphasising its European, Atlanticist stance.

“Every extra vote in Forza Italia will strengthen the moderate, centrist profile of the coalition,” he said in a separate interview published Wednesday in the Il Giornale newspaper.

League party leader Matteo Salvini (L), Fratelli d’Italia leader Giorgia Meloni and Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi pictured in October 2021. The trio look set to take power following snap elections in September. Photo by CLAUDIO PERI / ANSA / AFP

Berlusconi was Italy’s prime minister three times in the 1990s and 2000s, but has dominated public life for far longer as head of a vast media and sports empire.

The Senate expelled him in November 2013 following his conviction for tax fraud, and he was banned from taking part in a general election for six years.

He was elected to the European Parliament in 2019, however, and threw his hat in the ring earlier this year to become Italy’s president — although his candidacy was predictably short-lived.

Berlusconi remains a hugely controversial figure  in Italy and embroiled in the many legal wrangles that have characterised his long career.

He remains on trial for allegedly paying guests to lie about his notorious “bunga-bunga” sex parties while prime minister.

Berlusconi has also suffered a string of health issues, some related to his hospitalisation for coronavirus in September 2020, after which he said he had almost died.