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Juncker chides Italy on 2017 deficit (2)

Quake, refugees only worth 0.1% of GDP says EC chief

Juncker chides Italy on 2017 deficit (2)

(supersedes previous)Brussels, November 7 - European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday chided Italy on its draft budget, saying its projected 2017 deficit is overblown compared to its emergency spending on refugees and post-quake relief and reconstruction. Additional spending on quake relief and on asylum seekers is worth 0.1% of GDP, but Italy has raised its projected 2017 deficit from 2.4% after it pledged one at 1.7%, Juncker said. Italy is in no position to state that the EC is carrying on austerity policies from the past, he added. "If it wants to say so it can, but actually I don't care," the EC chief said. "Today, in 2016, Italy can spend an additional 19 billion euros, which it would not have been able to spend had I not reformed the (EU) Stability (and Growth) Pact in the direction of flexibility," Juncker told a meeting of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). "I believe wisdom calls for us to take earthquake and refugee costs into account... in Italy," Juncker said. "But the additional costs of migrant and earthquake policies in Italy are worth 0.1% of GDP, while Italy had promised a deficit target of 1.7% in 2017 and now it is proposing a 2.4% deficit due to the earthquake and the refugees," the EC chief said. He added that Italy's attacks on the EU over its draft budget are unfair and counterproductive. "The Commission I preside over has introduced elements of flexibility into the interpretation of the (EU Growth and) Stability Pact, to the benefit of a certain number of member states," Juncker said. "I would take the example of Italy, because (it) won't stop unfairly attacking the Commission, and this won't produce the expected results". Italian Premier Matteo Renzi has said he won't let the EU curb his government's spending to make schools anti-seismic and other emergencies in the wake of a devastating August 24 earthquake - and three more that followed in the last week of October - that claimed 298 lives, left tens of thousands homeless, and caused billions in damage.

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