Eurozone Economic and Finance Ministers (the Eurogroup) today endorsed the European Commission's opinion on the Italian Government's budget plan for 2019, which it considers to be a "particularly serious breach" of Community rules.
"We support the Commission in its evaluation and recommend Italy take the necessary measures to comply with the Stability and Growth Pact," the ministers said in a statement issued during their meeting on Monday.
They also expressed their support for the dialogue currently held by the European Commission and the Italian authorities to find a solution.
The Commission issued this opinion after the Italian Government refused to change its accounts in order to bring them in line with Community rules, as requested by Brussels when it first found the breach.
Also, in a separate opinion, the Community Executive pleaded to open a procedure for excess deficit to the country justified by its high public debt, which is the second highest in the EU (131.1%).
The States already supported this second opinion of the EC last Thursday through its Economic Policy Committee – formed by experts from the national ministries – with which Brussels could already initiate the procedures to open this file.
However, the Commission and the Italian Government are still negotiating and the European Commissioner for Economic Affairs, Pierre Moscovici, today considered that "progress" has been achieved and that the Executive of Rome shows a new disposition to dialogue, although he stressed that there is still "significant" differences between the position of Rome and European standards.
"The ball is on the roof of Rome," which should propose "substantial adjustments," said EC vice-president for the Euro, Valdis Dombrovskis.
Regarding the Spanish budget plan, the Eurogroup limited itself to "taking note" that both this one and those of Belgium, France, Portugal and Slovenia could lead to a "significant deviation with respect to the path of adjustment" towards its objectives term, according to the evaluation of the EC.
In addition, they point out, Spain, Belgium, France and Portugal would not comply, a priori, with the criteria for reducing public debt in 2019.
In this context, the Eurogroup "invites all these Member States to consider in time the necessary additional measures to address the risks identified by the Commission and comply with" the Stability and Growth Pact.
The Commission said on November 21 that Spain's budget draft for next year carries the risk of breaching European standards of fiscal discipline, by not guaranteeing the required structural adjustment or reducing public debt enough.
The Ministers of Economy and Finance addressed the evaluations of the Community Executive during a meeting that began this Monday at 1:00 pm local time (12.00 GMT) and will continue until the early morning of Tuesday to close an agreement on the reform of the eurozone.