November 27, 2019 / 4:23 PM / 10 days ago

Italy's Gualtieri sees ESM reform signed in February, can't be changed

FILE PHOTO: Italian Finance and Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri talks to media before the informal meeting of ministers for economic and financial affairs (ECOFIN) and Eurogroup in Helsinki, Finland, 13 September 2019. Lehtikuva/Martti Kainulainen via REUTERS

ROME (Reuters) - Italian Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri said on Wednesday euro zone countries will probably sign off on a reform of the region’s bailout fund in February, rather than next month as previously planned.

The reform of the fund, known as the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), has proved highly contentious in Italy, where the hard-right League party has challenged the government not to agree to it.

“The treaty will probably be signed in February,” Gualtieri told a Senate panel, adding that this would allow a pause for thought compared with the original schedule.

However, the substance of the ESM reform had already been completed and could not be re-negotiated, Gualtieri said.

On the other hand some connected issues regarding euro zone financial reform, to be presented in “accompanying documents”, were still subject to talks and Italy was “negotiating hard” over them, the minister added.

Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte, writing by Gavin Jones; editing by Crispian Balmer

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