March 22, 2019 / 4:37 PM / 8 months ago

Italy considering compensation claim against EU over bank rescue: Conte

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Italy is considering compensation claims against the European Commission for the strict interpretation it gave to EU banking rules, the Italian prime minister said on Friday, after a landmark EU ruling this week over a bank rescue.

Italian Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium March 22, 2019. Julien Warnand/Pool via REUTERS

On Tuesday the EU general court overturned Brussels’ decision to block a 2014 rescue plan of small Italian lender Tercas, prompting compensation calls from Italian banks which argued that subsequent banking rescues in Italy were more costly because of the Commission’s strict position.

“We have to draw political and juridical conclusions, including about a compensation plan,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told reporters after a summit of EU leaders in Brussels.

Earlier this week Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi had also flagged the possibility of a legal action against Brussels.

Conte backed Moavero’s comments but called for a cautious approach as the EU Commission could also appeal the ruling, he told reporters.

Conte, whose eurosceptic government has used public funds to help Italy’s ailing Carige bank and has not ruled out further support, said the Tercas ruling “set a precedent” which could enable a less strict application of EU banking rules.

The European Commission has said it is assessing the judgment and its consequences on future interventions.

Seven banks have been rescued in Italy since the Tercas case, including Banca Monte dei Paschi, the world’s oldest lender still in operation, and a smaller bank in Tuscany whose collapse and the subsequent wipeout of its creditors triggered the suicide of one of them.

The Tercas rescue was orchestrated by Italy’s deposit guarantee fund, which Brussels said could not be used for measures other than its core function of paying back savers hit by a bank failure.

The EU court ruling, labeled “historic” by EU lawmakers, effectively dismissed the Commission’s argument.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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