Italy PM says proud of budget, seeks European Union dialogue 'without prejudice'

REUTERS  Lisi Niesner

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte defies EU with debt-laden budgetREUTERS Lisi Niesner

"If we are asked to confirm (the sanctions), we will say no", Salvini said in an online media post from Moscow.

- Investors have reacted with calm to the new Italian budget draft that delivers on electoral promises to restore pensions to thousands whose retirement age had been pushed back and the creation of a basic salary for some job-seekers. That is below the EU's three percent limit, but EU officials believe the real costs will be higher, as the European Commission prepares to assess the plan.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who was elected to the post by Salvini and his coalition partner, M5S leader Luigi Di Maio, echoed Salvini's comments that the coalition was sticking to its pledges.

"We will work to overcome every disagreement but it will take time". "On the strength of this position, we go to Brussels with a budget that we are proud of and that we want to discuss without prejudices".

Mr Juncker announced his rejection of the budget, which would increase Italian deficit spending to 2.4 percent of GDP, remarking that "saying yes would lead to violent reactions from other Eurozone countries", Il Giornale reports. It could then decide to send the budget back for changes by October 29, in what would be an unprecedented move that is likely to cause further market turmoil.

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The League and 5-Star say they will not backtrack, arguing that their big-spending budget is needed to boost growth and tackle rising poverty in the euro zone's third largest but most sluggish economy.

To help fund spending measures, the budget makes life harder for Italy's struggling banks, reducing the proportion of interest payments they can deduct from their taxable income.

He said: "I am not going to Moscow because they pay me in roubles, as some have written, but because the problem is resolved with dialogue not with embargoes".

At the summit, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said fiscal rules should be respected by all, adding: "Too much debt is risky".

"The Commission has previously estimated that only at first sight, there seems to be a significant difference (...) compared to European Union fiscal rules and asked the Italian government to make the necessary adjustments", said Tuesday the vice-president of the Commission Valdis Dombrovskis. And I think this is where the country needs it most. This would set the scene for a serious clash between the European Union and Italy.

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