Italy’s powerful deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini said Saturday “I do not care” if the European Commission rejects a budget plan that would worsen Rome’s already mammoth debt burden.
“No one in Brussels can tell me it is not time,” the head of the far-right League party told a meeting in the Italian capital.
“If Brussels says I cannot do it, I do not care, I will do it anyway,” the outspoken leader vowed.
Italy’s new coalition government has drafted a budget that raises spending, pushes the public deficit target to around 2.4 percent of gross domestic product for the next three years, and probably hikes the public debt above its already excessive level of 131 percent of GDP.
The previous government was aiming for a deficit of 0.8 percent of GDP that would help cut debt but possibly hamper economic growth.
A warning by EU officials on Friday about Italy’s deficit troubled financial markets and pushed up the cost of borrowing for the government.
“It is a budget which appears to be beyond the limits of our shared rules,” noted Pierre Moscovici, who runs the European Commission’s economic and finance portfolio.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella warned the government Saturday that the constitution requires a balanced budget and sustainable public debt.
Salvini quickly responded, saying that after years of having its budget imposed by European leaders “we have finally changed course and are betting on the future and on growth.”
The Commission estimates that Italy’s economy will grow by just 1.1 percent next year.