An unnamed Italian government minister has claimed that French President Emmanuel Macron is the driving force behind pressure from the European Union against Italy, saying that the French leader is ultimately pushing for sanctions.
The minister, who chose to speak to the Italian media on condition of anonymity, said, “Macron is determined to punish Italy.”
He added that the French goal may be to pressure the Italian government to sell stakes in state-run companies such as oil and gas company ENI, shipbuilding company Fincantieri, and electrical power company Enel, Il Giornale reports.
Alleging that the strategy of the Élysée is to put Italy on its knees to “go shopping in our country,” the government source said: “If we were forced to repay the debt, we could, in fact, be forced to sell our family jewels.”
“The French appetites are known and ancient,” the minister added.
The potential of sanctions against Italy come after the populist coalition of the League and the Five Star Movement (M5S) refused to budge on the proposed budget that was rejected by Brussels and did not submit a new EU-approved budget by the deadline, which expired earlier this week on Tuesday.
Macron Declares War on Salvini-Orban Bloc, ‘I Am Their Chief Adversary’ https://t.co/jOzGMEBRRU
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The first step for the European Union would be the start of the infringement procedure, which allows the European Commission to take legal action against member states that do not apply EU laws and could see heavy fines levied on the Italian government.
League leader and Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini commented, “They are crazy if they really open the infringement procedure against our country, 60 million Italians would rebel.”
“Italy has a government that deals with the Italians and I say with the utmost affection, mind your own business and let us work,” Salvini added.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte also weighed in on the matter saying that he would take a diplomatic route to try and convince Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker not to begin the infringement procedure.
Juncker, along with other members of the Commission, has taken a hard line against the Italian budget with some even going as far as claiming the Italians are trying to “destroy” the European Project.
The stance of the government has seen broad support from the Italian electorate who are now largely seen as the most eurosceptic in the entire European Union with only 44 per cent saying they would vote to remain in the political bloc if a membership referendum were held.