The battle of the Italian budget against the euro zone

Markit IHS

Markit IHS

The Eurogroup will not take any decision on Italy's 2019 budget bill today, group chief Mario Centeno said Monday.

If the report shows that Italy is failing to comply with rules on reducing its debt - which is more than twice the European Union limit - then that could trigger the so-called excessive deficit procedure, a process that could eventually lead to financial sanctions for the government in Rome.

The EU's economic and financial affairs commissioner Pierre Moscovici said at a press briefing: "The ball is now in Italy's court".

"We look forward for Italy and the commission to engage in an open and constructive dialogue and for Italy to cooperate closely with the commission in the preparation of a revised budgetary plan which is in line with the SGP", according to the statement.

The Goldman Sachs economist suggested market pressure will play a "key role" on whether the Italian Government carries out its plans despite having signalled no intention to give up the proposed budget.

"If you share a currency with many other countries, we all have responsibilities to each other and those responsibilities are now articulated in the rules that the European Commission oversees", Mr Donohoe told reporters on entering.

Italy's Finance Minister Giovanni Tria speaking to reporters in Rome.

The budget "is not changing", said Tria after the talks. "I really hope that the Italian government will seize the hand offered,"said French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire".

The budget dispute leaves many uneasy.

Italy's draft budget, which envisages an increase in the structural deficit by 0.8 percent of GDP next year rather than the 0.6 percent of GDP decrease required by EU rules, was rejected by the European Commission last month.

But this time, officials said it could instead act on its own economic forecasts, due on November 8, which are expected to show a far less optimistic scenario than the 1.5 percent GDP growth in 2019 predicted by the Italian government.

EU Economy Commissioner Pierre Moscovici recalled that Italy has until November 13 to submit a new budget plan. "Never an Italy to its knees", he launched.

The economic andsocial situation in Italy is explosive with an unemployment rate of 10.1%, well above the euro area average, and a stagnation of activity in the third quarter (+ 0.0%), a first for three years, which could have consequences in the battle with Brussels.

The coalition's 2019 budget is based on the country experiencing an annual growth of 1.5 percent - a figure considered optimistic by the International Monetary Fund, which has forecast only one percent.

It doesn't help that Rome, who already stretched beneath a huge debt of 2,300 billion (131% of its GDP), has seen the rating of its debt downgraded by Moody's, while Standard & Poor's lowered its outlook, from stable to negative.

The much watched "spread" - the gap between German and Italian bond yields - has grown to around 300 basis points, up from around 130 in the first quarter of 2018, as the markets demand higher returns to put their money in Rome.

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