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Eurozone ministers meet in Brussels to discuss Italy’s budget standoff

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Eurozone finance ministers gathering in Brussels on Monday will discuss Italy’s escalating budget standoff with the EU as the bloc waits for the government in Rome to respond to the unprecedented rebuke it received two weeks ago.

Luxembourg Times reports that the discussion comes as Italy is asked to submit revised spending plans by 13 November, after the European Commission essentially rejected the country’s budget for 2019, saying that it constitutes a clear deviation from commonly agreed fiscal rules. Despite repeated warnings, prime minister Giuseppe Conte has said there’s no “Plan B” for the fiscal programme, indicating the government has no intention to comply with EU demands.

Italy’s deputy prime minister told the Financial Times in an interview published Sunday that he believes Rome’s controversial spending plans will become “a recipe” for reviving European growth and that the continent is ready to abandon austerity and embrace the deficit-busting approach of US president Donald Trump.

Given the populist government’s reluctance to revise its budget, the standoff with Brussels is set to escalate further in the coming weeks. At their meeting on Monday, finance chiefs are likely to back the commission’s stance toward Italy, something already done by their chief aides, who debated the matter last month.

Once Italy responds to the commission, the EU’s executive arm will have three weeks to publish its final assessment — which may include triggering a procedure that could eventually lead to financial sanctions for the government in Rome. The penalty could reach 0.2% of the country’s annual economic output.

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