The meeting here came a week after Olli Rehn, the European Union’s commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, warned that Italy and Spain faced debt and deficit problems under their current spending plans for 2014. The main topic on the agenda was whether the verdicts by Mr. Rehn, who has gained authority to review national spending plans, should be followed.
On Friday, Mr. Rehn dryly rebutted Mr. Letta’s “ayatollahs” comment, rejecting any suggestion that he was too tough on Italy. “I trust Mr. Letta meant the negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program,” Mr. Rehn told a Finnish broadcaster. “It is very important that all E.U. member states, including Italy, aim at the stability of their public finances.”
But the meeting of ministers and European officials avoided, for now at least, a full-blown fight with Italy by agreeing to give Rome a chance to meet its budgetary targets with additional measures to raise revenue and trim spending.
Politically, the announcement came under immediate attack by Matteo Renzi, the mayor of Florence and the presumptive next leader of the PD. It said the sale comes at the wrong time, when the economy is still weak, and when the government is not in a position to attract good prices for its holdings, as this fire-sale is heavily tilted in favour of the buyers. The benefit this sale would bring in the short term, comes at the expense of the medium-term, he said.
Corriere della Sera writes in its front page article that Enrico Letta wanted to conquer Brussels with this manoeuvre after the European Commission raised doubts that Italy may not make sufficient progress on debt reduction in 2014.