Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Tuesday that "there will be a French problem" on top of an Italian one if France’s deficit breaches EU rules after Emmanuel Macron unveiled measures to quell protests.
"France will have to increase its deficit and there will be a problem for France, if the rules are the same for everyone," said Di Maio, whose own government’s big-spending budget is facing EU disciplinary measures.
And speaking at his rally in Rome on Saturday, Co-Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said the Italian government was taking a “very different path” to Paris.
“Do people in Italy want scenes like we've seen in Paris? ... No. I want to prevent this,” he said.
'Yellow vest' protesters in Paris. Photo: AFP
France’s “yellow vest” protesters have taken aim at French President Emmanuel Macron’s liberal economic policies, and have so far forced the French government to pay for an increase in the minimum wage - a potentially costly measure - as well as cancel a planned rise in taxes on petrol and diesel.
Italian ministers seized on the anti-government demonstrations rocking Paris as further justification for their ‘people’s budget’, which proposes to increase public spending in defiance of austerity measures being followed across Europe – including Italy, for now.
Italy's budget for 2019 was the first in history to be rejected by Brussels for breaking spending rules, and the populist government of Di Maio's Five Star Movement and Matteo Salvini's far-right League is now trying to come up with another draft.
Brussels has insisted it will sanction Italy if its budget is not adjusted to meet European Union spending rules, focusing on the proposed deficit level of 2.4 percent.
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Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, travelling to Brussels this week, is expected to argue that his government’s budget goes beyond numbers and is the only defence against the unrest and social revolt taking place across Europe, La Stampa writes.
The country “can’t concentrate only on financial stability, we also need to look at social stability,” the premier was cited as saying. “The austerity-oriented recipes of the past few years have failed.”
The EU rules on public spending are "binding for everybody, that is clear," said senior German MEP Manfred Weber, when asked by reporters about France's new expenditure.
But he added that "what we should not do as the European Union is intervene in domestic policies.”
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