Brussels, December 7 - Italy did not respect rules on the unpaid debts of the public administration, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said Thursday. "Even in 2013," he said, "when Brussels granted the possibility of breaching the Stability Pact to pay civil-service and public-sector creditors, this opportunity was not used," he said. It was thus "inevitable" that Italy be reported to the European Court of Justice almost five years after a European Commission directive, he said. Now, he said, what was needed was a "swift change of course". The European Commission said earlier that it has referred Italy to the EU Court of Justice over late payments by the Italian public authorities to private-sector suppliers. Under the EU's Late Payment Directive, public authorities have to pay for the goods and services they procure within 30 days or, in very exceptional circumstances, within 60 days of receiving the bill. "The Commission acknowledges the efforts made by the Italian government to improve the situation since the launch of the infringement procedure with a letter of formal notice in June 2014 and the subsequent reasoned opinion sent in February 2017," the EC said. "However, more than three years after the launch of the infringement procedure, the Italian public authorities still take on average 100 days to settle their invoices, with peaks which can considerably exceed this figure". It said the decision to refer Italy to the court was aimed at protecting European businesses, particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).