Wednesday

22nd Feb 2017

Renzi stirs up EU row ahead of eurozone meeting

  • Renzi has vowed to put an end to 'Brussels secrecy' on economic affairs (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Eurozone leaders are meeting on Friday (24 October) to discuss the issue of public deficits and debt, as France and Italy are in breach of the EU rules.

Ahead of the meeting, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi stirred up a row with outgoing EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso, who criticised his decision to publish a commission letter warning him about the budget deficit.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Renzi said he could not understand Barroso's "surprise" about the published letter, given that the Financial Times and Italian media had already "anticipated" it.

"I think it's time for total and open transparency, the time has come to put an end to secret letters in this building. With Italy there will be total clarity about anything that comes from Brussels, because we think that's the only way to help citizens understand what is going on," Renzi told journalists on the margins of an EU summit.

The Italian prime minister noted that Barroso is ending his mandate next week and said he is sure incoming EU commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker "will be aware" of the need to boost transparency in EU institutions.

"I think we will not only publish all data, but also how much they spend in these buildings [EU institutions]. We are going to have some fun," he concluded.

On his Twitter page, Renzi also wrote that "we will publish all letters and above all, all economic data of Brussels institutions."

As for the issue of Italy being in breach of the three-percent deficit rule, Renzi said this was no big problem.

"We are discussing about one-two billions difference, we can add them even this morning. For a country that gives €20bn to Europe, with a total budget of €860 billion, the two billion that in theory could be necessary are a really tiny effort," he said.

Renzi said eurozone leaders will discuss who is making the political assessment as to when there are "exceptional conditions" which allow a country to be in breach of the deficit and debt rules and when there is a "significant deviation" which triggers the commission's punitive measures.

"We have to see if these evaluations are applied equally to all countries," Renzi said.

France downplays letter

While Italy's deviation from the deficit rules may still be fixed, the bigger problem is France's budget, forecasting a deficit of 4.3 of GDP for next year, when it was supposed to reach three percent.

Speaking on his way into the EU summit, French President Francois Hollande said he is "in dialogue" with the EU commission for weeks now and that "growth remains a priority".

"France will respect the rules with a maximum of flexibility," he said.

As to France's letter - similar to the one received by his Italian colleague - Hollande said it was "banal" and not worthy of being published.

This is only the second time since the EU commission scrutinises national budgets, as part of its new increased economic coordination powers.

How it will deal with France and Italy is a litmus test for the credibility of these rules, given that countries like Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland and Cyprus underwent austerity measures to get their deficits under control during the eurozone crisis.

Renzi continues row with new EU commission chief

Italy's PM Matteo Renzi has demanded "respect" for his country after new EU commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker criticised his and David Cameron's behaviour during an EU summit.

MEPs set to approve Canada trade deal

The European Parliament is expected to give the green light to the EU-Canada free trade agreement, which would start being implemented in April.

News in Brief

  1. Romanian parliament buries controversial corruption decree
  2. Dozens drown off Libyan coast
  3. EU ministers approve anti-tax avoidance directive
  4. Poland rejects EU criticism of court changes
  5. German nationalist leader met with Putin allies in Moscow
  6. German housing market overheated, says Bundesbank
  7. France invites three EU leaders for Versailles summit in March
  8. Greece agrees on new bailout reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  2. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  3. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  4. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  7. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  8. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year
  9. Centre Maurits CoppietersThe Situation of Refugee Women in Europe
  10. Salzburg Global SeminarToward a Shared Culture of Health: Charting the Patient-Clinician Relationship
  11. European Free AllianceAustria Should Preserve & Promote Bilingual and Multinational Carinthia
  12. Martens CentreShow Your Love for Democracy! Take Part in Our Contest: "If It's Broken, Let's Fix It"

Latest News

  1. Should Europeans spend more on defence?
  2. Dieselgate: EU disappointed with VW's treatment of customers
  3. French police raid Le Pen's party office
  4. The Armenia-Azerbaijan war: A refugee's story
  5. Greece and creditors break bailout deadlock
  6. Internal EU report exposes Libya turmoil
  7. EU commissioner condemns 'delay' in post-Dieselgate reform
  8. Sweden fights back as foreign leaders make up bad news