Deficit: can Brussels bring Italy to heel?

The European Commission has recommended that an excessive deficit procedure be launched against Italy. The country is heading towards a debt-to-GDP ratio of 135 percent while the government is instituting measures such as a citizens' income poverty relief scheme and lowering the age of retirement. Commentators doubt that Brussels' attempts at disciplinary action will succeed.

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Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Stability Pact just a gentlemen's agreement

The EU's threat to launch disciplinary action against Italy is as overdue as it is ineffectual, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung comments:

“If an excessive deficit procedure is launched the country will face financial sanctions. But the procedure is a lengthy one and the likelihood of another game of cat and mouse with more poor compromises is great. Once again the monetary union's Achilles' heel is exposed: the stability pact is ultimately nothing more than a gentlemen's agreement among states that remain sovereign when it comes to budgetary matters. When politicians like Salvini openly mock the 'little letters from Brussels', apart from the harmless deficit procedure there is no other remedy.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Provocations will continue

It would still be possible for Italy to avoid the excessive deficit procedure, writes columnist Stefano Folli in La Repubblica:

“The initiation of disciplinary action is certainly a serious matter, but not yet dramatic: over the years many countries, including Italy, have been threatened with this. Just as the procedure has been initiated it can also be stopped. The problem, however, is that the political philosophy of the yellow-green army under Lega's command doesn't foresee reacting to Europe with virtuous behaviour. On the contrary, it defies Europe by not observing the deficit and debt limits.”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

EU unable to come up with a better solution

It's not just the national governments that are to blame for the recurring row between the EU Commission and deficit sinners, La Libre Belgique puts in:

“It's clear that the populists' exaggerated promises are untenable in view of the state of their countries' budgets, national debt and slow growth. Europe as a single entity is simply unable to tackle this challenge. It's a complex problem and the solutions are no doubt as complicated as they are flawed. But for how long will we content ourselves with routinely sending pamphlets such as this one on the state of public finances? Doesn't this semi-annual mechanism testify to a complete deadlock and lack of strategic vision as to how member states should implement their reforms?”

PestiSrácok (HU) /

Austerity is not a universal remedy

An expansive fiscal policy like that in Italy can also bring results, PestiSrácok interjects:

“The cash injection revives the economy, which can then offset the increased debt in the short term. But in the EU's book this kind of strategy is inappropriate and no member state is allowed to use it. The reason is that the economic situation differs from member state to member state. Some people say that for the Germans the euro is too weak, while for many others it's too strong. In some northern states and in Germany the private sector is strong and the banks and companies have plenty of money, so they don't need any help from the state. But in Italy, France and Greece, which not so long ago was bankrupt, the situation is different.”