Italy's Tria says many EU states have failed to respect fiscal rules

FILE PHOTO: Italian Economy Minister Giovanni Tria attends as Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (unseen) speaks during his first session at the Lower House of the Parliament in Rome, Italy, June 6, 2018. REUTERS/Tony Gentile/File Photo

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - Italy’s Finance Minister said on Monday that many European Union states have failed over the years to respect EU fiscal rules, but added that this does not mean that rules should be breached.

Speaking after a meeting with euro zone finance ministers and EU economics commissioners who questioned Italy’s fiscal plans, Giovanni Tria said he had explained the Italian government’s budgetary plans.

He admitted that Rome’s deficit target is not in line with EU rules, but stressed many countries have not respected the rules in the past.

“The number of countries respecting the rules is very small,” he said. But he added: “This does not mean that we should not respect the rules”.

He declined to answer questions from reporters about the possibility of changing Italy’s deficit target, which is set now at 2.4 percent of GDP next year, an eventuality he had hinted at during the meeting behind closed doors with other ministers earlier on Monday.

“I only explained the rationale of our budgetary plans,” he told reporters after the meeting.

He then left for Rome, skipping another meeting with EU finance ministers scheduled on Tuesday.

He said he had to leave earlier because he was “quite busy” with the budgetary plans, which have to be finalised and translated into a draft budget that will be submitted to the EU Commission by mid-October.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio