June 14, 2019 / 9:48 AM / 2 months ago

Italy has only days to give answers to EU over debt: France's Le Maire

FILE PHOTO: French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire is escorted by Japanese counterpart Taro Aso into a meeting at the Finance Ministry in Tokyo, Japan June 10, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato/Pool/File Photo

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - Italy should clarify in the next few days how it intends to avert a European Union disciplinary action over its soaring debt, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Friday.

He spoke after Italian Finance Minister Giovanni Tria explained Rome’s public finances to euro zone counterparts at a meeting in Luxembourg. The EU has said there is room to open a disciplinary procedure against Italy, which could lead to fines.

Asked at a news conference when Italy should reply to the EU’s executive commission to avert disciplinary proceedings, Le Maire said: “I would say a few days.”

EU governments this week endorsed the European Commission’s assessment that Italy was in breach of EU fiscal rules because of its growing debt, which Rome’s eurosceptic government has not tackled, pursuing instead free-spending policies.

This would justify the opening of a disciplinary procedure, the EU said. Such punitive action would need to be started before the summer break under EU rules.

The Commission is expected to decide on whether to recommend the move on June 26, EU officials and documents said, although a one-week delay could be possible. The final decision by EU finance ministers is expected on July 8-9.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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