European Union slams Italy's 'unprecedented' deviation from budget rules

Matteo Salvini stands next to a sniper rifle during an event involving the state police SWAT team in Rome

In a joint press conference with Tria on Thursday, Moscovici was at pains to stress that "the European Commission is not Italy's enemy" and that its objective is not to criticize the ways in which eurozone members decide to spend money, but rather to make sure that each country plays by the rules that everyone has agreed to.

"If Brussels says I can not do it, I do not care, I will do it anyway", Salvini said last week, referring to the budget's implementation.

In an October 15 report, the Bank of Italy said that at the end of 2017, the nation's public debt stood at 2.26 trillion euros, or 131.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). In the EC fear that Italy will increase the record-high external debt, which threatens the stability of the Eurozone.

The European Commission has warned Italy that its higher-than-expected budget deficit targets represent an unprecedented deviation from EU budget rules.

The Italian government has until midday Monday to respond to the European Union letter, which expresses concern about Italy's structural deficit and its high debt level, and seeks more information about Italy's growth outlook from its new populist government.

Ahead of the meeting, Italy had on Wednesday insisted it would not budge on the budget, putting Rome squarely on course for a clash with Brussels.

"I can not imagine a Europe without Italy or Italy without Europe", Moscovici said.

Tria for his part said Italy and Brussels had "different evaluations" of the situation, but added that he too looked forward to "a constructive dialogue".

Rome is also resisting European Union proposals to impose sanctions on countries that carry out cyber-attacks, in another move seen as being in favor of Moscow.

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Italy's budget proposal is considered out of line with commitments made earlier, with a proposed deficit of 2.4 per cent.

The currency markets also reacted to the news of the Commission's letter with concern, causing the Euro to devalue to a one-week low against the U.S. dollar. He said the main concerns revolve around the higher deficit, Italy's debt load and the possibility for growth.

Luigi Di Maio, the head of the 5-Star Movement, on Thursday threatened to lodge a formal criminal complaint.

In the coalition contract drawn up in May, Italy's ruling parties wrote that Russian Federation should not be seen as "a menace but rather an economic and commercial partner, potentially increasingly significant".

Luigi Di Maio told a late-night talk show that the draft presented to the Italian president contained a proposal to extend a tax amnesty on money held overseas and brought back to Italy.

"I am beginning to get cross because at that cabinet meeting, Conte read (the text) and Di Maio wrote (the minutes)", Salvini said.

The League party contends the language had been approved by both parties.

Aimed at fulfilling electoral promises, Italy's planned spending boost is what the government calls its "people's budget", a series of pension and tax changes that will cost 37 billion euros ($43 billion), of which 22 billion will be paid for by expanding the deficit.

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