June 21, 2018 / 9:22 AM / 3 months ago

Eurosceptics to head Italian parliamentary finance committees

ROME (Reuters) - Two leading eurosceptics from Italy’s far-right League, Claudio Borghi and Alberto Bagnai, were picked on Thursday to head important parliamentary committees, as the League and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement put together their coalition government.

Borghi will become president of the Budget Committee in the lower house of parliament and Bagnai president of the Finance Committee in the Senate.

Both have repeatedly railed against EU budget restraints, and Borghi has called for the issuance of short-term government bonds, known as mini-Bots, to pay companies and individuals owed money by the state.

“The goal to balance the budget has destroyed our economy,” Bagnai said earlier this year. He said monetary union was “destined to fail,” but added that leaving the currency bloc was not among the League’s top priorities.

Borghi and Bagnai have wide and enthusiastic support on social media among Italian eurosceptics, where they regularly spar with more mainstream, pro-euro economists.

“Me as president of the Chamber budget committee and Bagnai president of the Senate finance committee, I’d say today is an important day,” Borghi tweeted after the appointments were announced.

The presidents of parliamentary committees have much less power than ministers. But they can guarantee a fast track for government legislation and slow down opposition amendments. Borghi’s and Bagnai’s main role will be to ensure that government legislation passes smoothly through parliament.

They have both repeatedly said the single currency project was a mistake and is destined to collapse.

Bagnai, an economics professor at Chieti and Pescara University, wrote a book in 2012 called “The sunset of the euro,” which League leader Matteo Salvini has said helped form his own eurosceptic views.

The summary on the front cover of the book reads: “How and why the end of the single currency would save democracy and prosperity in Europe.”

Borghi, a former trader at Deutsche Bank, told Reuters last year his mini-Bot scheme, named after Italy’s short-term Treasury bills, could develop into a sort of parallel currency, which could protect the country if it should ever leave the euro.

The mini-Bots feature in the program of the League and the 5-Star Movement. Both parties have a history of euroscepticism, though 5-Star has moderated its position considerably over the last year.

Their joint program contains nothing that directly calls into question Italy’s membership of the single currency. Economy Minister Giovanni Tria, an academic with no party affiliation, recently stressed Italy’s commitment to the euro and to reducing its public debt, the world’s third largest.

However, markets remain nervous, and the news of the appointments of Borghi and Bagnai prompted a sell-off of Italian bonds, stocks and the euro.

Bagnai tweeted scathingly that as it was widely expected he and Borghi would get the jobs, the market reaction demonstrated “they are unable to get obvious information or to internalize it in prices.”

The presidency of the lower house finance committee went to 5-Star deputy Carla Ruocco, while 5-Star’s Daniele Pesco was named head of the Senate budget committee.

Additional reporting by Giuseppe Fonte, editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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