European Commission wants members to ‘show them the money’

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The European Commission has warned that eight eurozone countries, including Italy, are at risk of breaking EU rules because of excessive budget deficits.

Under EU rules, member states are not supposed to run annual deficits greater than 3% of their total economic output.

But the Commission, which has the power to oversee eurozone countries’ draft budgets, said the eight risked “non-compliance” in 2017.

The others include Spain and Portugal, which have already had a close call.

EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici sought to downplay the negative opinion against Italy, pointing to the extra costs of handling a series of earthquakes and the migration crisis.

“For Italy, a significant part of deviation is due to the costs associated with seismic activity in the country, which has been very serious this year and dramatic,” he said.

The EU “will take that into account”, Mr Moscovici added.

Both Spain and Portugal escaped being fined over their budget deficits in August, when the EU Council gave them more time to conform to the rules and reduce their deficits.

Last year, Spain’s deficit was 5.1% of its gross domestic product (GDP), while Portugal’s stood at 4.4%.

The other five countries warned by the Commission were Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, Lithuania and Slovenia.

Although all EU countries are required to run budget deficits below 3% of GDP, only the 19 countries that use the euro as a currency can be fined.