October 1, 2018 / 9:35 AM / 8 months ago

EU Commission set to reject Italy's budget plans in November - newspaper

ROME (Reuters) - The European Commission is set to reject Italy’s budget plans in November and open a procedure against the country’s public accounts in February, Italian daily la Repubblica reported on Monday.

Last week, the ruling coalition, which comprises the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the far-right League, proposed a 2019 deficit that is, at 2.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), three times the previous administration’s target.

Citing unnamed EU sources, the newspaper said Brussels had little room for manoeuvre with such targets, adding that the Commission would be forced to reject the budget.

The European Commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Last week the EU executive body said that it will assess the draft budgetary plans for 2019 of all euro area member states, including Italy, in the weeks after their formal presentation by 15 October, and before the end of November.

Officials and diplomats in Brussels told Reuters last week that they still hope market forces will convince Italy to change its budgetary plans before they are formally submitted by mid-October to the EU Commission.

It is still far from certain whether the EU executive would choose to enter the uncharted territory of sending the budget back to Rome — a move that would escalate the crisis if Italy were to ignore its recommendations, sources said.

In that case, the Commission would have to open sanctions proceedings against Rome, but that might not happen before spring because disciplinary decisions are usually taken only after final data is available in April.

Reporting by Giselda Vagnoni; additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels, editing by Francesca Landini and Crispian Balmer

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