Juncker on budget drama: Italy is Italy
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Thursday dismissed Italian accusations of harsh EU treatment of the country in light of Romes spending plans for next year.
Italy often points out that Frances past abuse of EU budget rules has gone unpunished and accuses the Commission of hypocrisy.
But Juncker reminded Italy that Brussels has been very lenient with the countrys previous budgets when it comes to complying with the EUs budget and deficit rules.
“Italy was able to spend, over the last three years, €30 billion more without a sanction,” he told reporters after the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday.
“We were very kind, gentle, and positive when it came to Italy,” he added. “Because Italy is Italy” — an echo of his 2016 quip about France, which avoided sanctions against spending “because France is France.”
Italys populist government intends to push its budget deficit to around 2.4 percent of GDP to fulfill its campaign promises of introducing a new flat tax and a basic income for the poor.
The new target is a far stretch from the Commission call for Rome to keep its deficit under 1.6 percent of GDP to tackle its public debt, which is currently the second highest in the EU after Greece at around 131 percent of economic output.
The Commission will send the Italian government a letter “asking to clarify” the contents of its draft budget. The letter is not a rejection of the Italian budget. Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici is in Rome and will also hold a press conference with Finance Minister Giovanni Tria tonight.