Italy risks missing stimulus package deadline due to EU concerns, sources say By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi meets journalists in Rome

By Giuseppe Fonte and Gavin Jones

ROME (Reuters) – Italy risks missing the April 30 deadline to submit a final version of its stimulus package to the European Commission as Brussels is not satisfied with several aspects of the projects presented so far, have said two sources familiar with the matter.

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Mario Draghi strongly denied that the deadline would be missed. “The plan will be presented on April 30,” he said. A spokesperson for the Ministry of the Economy said that “our objective remains to present it on April 30”.

A delay would be a blow to Draghi, who took office two months ago, charged with fine-tuning the plan prepared by the previous government.

The 27 countries of the European Union have been working on their national plans that outline how each government wants to spend its share of the EU’s 750 billion euro ($ 900 billion) Stimulus Fund joint borrowing program.

Italy is eligible for more than € 200 billion in grants and cheap loans from the Fund, the largest share of any EU country. The money will be disbursed gradually over six years.

“The Commission is not satisfied with the stimulus package as it stands,” said one of the sources, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.

The source said Draghi would likely present the plan around mid-May, but more time may be needed to overcome the Commission’s objections.

Among Brussels’ main concerns are the lack of details on how the plan will be managed once it is approved by the EU and the substance of some of the reforms described, including of the justice system, the source said. .

Another source also said that Brussels wanted changes to the plan, which would take time, and said mid-May now seemed a “realistic” time for its presentation.

Italy has yet to suggest that he might be late, and Draghi told reporters on April 8 that “on April 30 we will deliver our plan.”

A Commission spokesperson said she had no comment on the Italian plan in particular, but the Commission understood that drawing up the stimulus packages was a difficult task for all Member States, while also focusing on tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

While plans are due by April 30 as a rule, some countries “may need a few more weeks,” she said, and “quality should be the first priority.” She added that the Commission was currently in “intensive dialogue” with all countries on the preparation of their plans.

BLUEPRINTS FOR EXPENSES

Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said on Friday that some EU countries would miss the April 30 target date, without specifying which ones.

Draghi’s main mission upon taking office, as well as the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, was to present a strong stimulus package to ensure the flow of EU funds to finally unleash the growth of the EU. chronically sluggish economy.

National plans are plans for the grants and loans that each EU country will secure through the Commission’s unprecedented joint borrowing to rebuild greener, more digital economies after the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his comments on Friday, Dombrovskis said the delay in submitting some plans would not push back the system as a whole, details of which have yet to be ratified by parliaments in some countries.

As long as the delays in submitting plans are not too long and ratification is completed in all member states by June, the Commission can make the first disbursements in July, Dombrovskis said.

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