News Analysis: Italy budget shedding new light on priorities of government supporters

Source: Xinhua| 2018-12-19 02:13:41|Editor: yan
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ROME, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) -- High-profile budget negotiations between Italy and the European Commission are entering the home stretch, as some analyst speculate that Rome's willingness to compromise may widen an already significant gap between the parties supporting the government.

Italy has been at odds with the executive arm of the European Union over the size of the government's 2019 budget deficit for nearly two months.

Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini asserted this week on social media that the government had taken steps needed to avoid sanctions from the European Commission. He did not go into detail about the plan.

In the latest move before Salvini's announcement, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced a compromise draft budget that would see a deficit of 2.04 percent of the country's gross domestic product, down from 2.4 percent previously.

To get to that point, the government cut around 2 billion euros (2.3 billion U.S. dollars) each from the Conte government's two main priorities: pensions and a plan to provide a minimum income for poor Italians.

Some Italian media reported Tuesday that commissioners will ask Italy to cut at least 2.5 billion additional euros (2.9 billion U.S. dollars) from the budget, though there has been no official word from Brussels on the topic.

For his part, Salvini excluded the possibility of further budget cuts for 2019.

"If they want us to cut again, then no, that's enough," Salvini said in a televised interview.

Luigi Di Maio, the other deputy prime minister, said further cuts would require the government to break electoral promises aimed at helping rank-and-file Italians.

"There will be no agreement if commissioners insist we betray our fellow Italians," Di Maio said.

Salvini and Di Maio are the leaders of the nationalist League and the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement, respectively, the two parties supporting the Conte government.

Oreste Massari, a political scientist at La Sapienza University in Rome, told Xinhua the budget compromise will likely shed more light on the already large gap between the priorities of the League and the Five-Star Movement by forcing the government to choose.

"This negotiation process is taking an already difficult balancing act between the two parties and making it more challenging," Massari said.

The professor said that even though the two parties campaigned on standing up to the European Union, they could lose support by being too inflexible in budget talks.

"Already a majority of Italians disapprove of the budget plan because they are afraid of the consequences of running afoul of EU rules," he said.