Rutte Says the EU Must Intervene Over Italy’s Public Finances

(Bloomberg) -- Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said there’s no evidence that the European Commission should hold off from disciplining Italy over its mounting debt, throwing cold water on Italian optimism that the procedure can be averted.

“I have seen nothing which would suggest they can escape this excessive deficit procedure,” Rutte said in an interview with Bloomberg Television at the Group of 20 summit in Osaka. “Italy really has to do more and the commission has to intervene.”

His words came as Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who’s also attending the summit, reiterated his commitment to respecting European budget rules and avoiding sanctions. Italian daily la Repubblica reported Friday that Italy could be nearing an agreement with the commission to push back a decision to September or October.

“We want to bring home a result, and we know well the result is avoiding the procedure,” Conte said on Friday. “Even if at this point it seems a given that it’s all put off until October.”

The G-20 leaders’ meeting in Japan is seen as Italy’s last chance to convince European partners that its public finances have improved and its commitment to fiscal prudence for the future is serious.

The back and forth over Italy comes in tandem with negotiations to select candidates for the EU’s top jobs and with a mounting spat between Rome and the Netherlands over a Dutch migrant rescue ship in the Mediterranean.

In the interview, Rutte contrasted the lack of reform and fiscal consolidation in Italy with efforts his government has made to emerge from the European debt crisis. He said historically low levels of unemployment in the Netherlands show the benefits of tough measures.

“It pays off to put reforms and savings in place when you go through a crisis and Italy is not doing that,” the premier said.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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