LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - Italy’s finance minister told his euro zone peers during a closed-door meeting in Luxembourg on Monday that details of Italy’s budgetary plans for 2019 were still under discussion within the government, two European Union sources told Reuters.
Giovanni Tria was asked to explain Rome’s plans for a large deficit in the next three years by the French and Dutch finance ministers, the source said, although the topic was not on the agenda of the monthly Eurogroup meeting of euro zone finance ministers.
He explained the government’s plans but said they were not final yet and details were still under discussion, the sources said.
A third source confirmed French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire had asked Tria for details of the plans, backed by his Dutch counterpart Wopke Hoekstra.
Tria said the government’s priorities were investment and growth, according to two sources.
He insisted Italy’s debt would decrease, repeating comments he made to reporters before the meeting.
Last week, the government agreed its budgetary plans for the next three years, which will be the basis for the 2019 draft budget that will have to be submitted to the EU Commission by mid-October.
The first EU source said that at Monday’s meeting, the EU Economy Commissioner said the Commission was concerned by Italy’s plans for a deficit of 2.4 percent of GDP in 2019, three times higher than earlier commitments.
But he added it was too early to formulate the commission’s position on the budget, as it had not been submitted yet.
The second source said the head of the Eurogroup, Portugal’s Finance Minister Mario Centeno, raised doubts about the deficit targets and said it was Italy’s responsibility to demonstrate its fiscal objectives were sustainable.
Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; editing by Andrew Roche