Delegates from the European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) visited Rome between October 29-31 to discuss economic, budgetary and corporate matters.
Committee members met with officials, government ministers, financial regulators and other representatives, although the Italian Chamber of Deputies and the Senate both cancelled meetings with the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. The delegation, whose trip was planned long before Italy’s current budget woes, were able to meet with Italian Finance Minister Giovanni Tria and Ignazio Visco, Governor of the Bank of Italy.
Delegates reported they welcomed the progress of the Italian economy since the country suffered a destructive recession between 2011 and 2013, drawing particular attention to the improved stability of Italian banks and the reduction of non-performing loans. The Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs expressed concern, however, about the continuing uncertainty over Italy’s 2019 budget plans, which would see the country take on a high deficit to finance campaign promises such as a “tax amnesty” and universal basic income.
Roberto Gualtieri, chair of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and leader of the delegation, said: “We have heard constructive words from the Finance Minister regarding Italy’s commitment to the European Union, but too many governmental voices have been ambiguous in this regard. This uncertainty is contributing to significantly increasing the cost of the public debt and affecting financial stability. We urge the Italian government to engage in a constructive dialogue with the European Commission.”
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told reporters he was “confident” of reaching a deal with Brussels over the controversial 2019 Italian budget, which received an unprecedented “negative opinion” from the European Commission last week. The prime minister insisted the projected deficit, 2.4 per cent of gross domestic product – which is significantly higher than the two per cent target imposed by the EU – was necessary to address Italy’s economic slowdown and “social and economic emergencies”.
Conte, who did not meet with the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs delegation, said he planned to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker “very soon” to discuss the budget further.