EU finance ministers agree Italy should face debt action

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BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union finance ministers say Italy’s high debt contravenes EU rules and that the country should face penalties for failing to comply.

Mario Centeno, who chairs meetings of finance ministers from the 19 countries using the euro currency, said Friday that they agree with a European Commission assessment “that a debt-based procedure is warranted.”

Speaking after a eurogroup meeting in Luxembourg, Centeno said Italy has been “invited to take the necessary measures to ensure compliance” with the rules.

The commission, which supervises the budget plans of the 28 EU member states, says Italy’s public debt stood at 132.2% of GDP in 2018, more than double the EU’s 60% limit.

The commission is recommending that an “excessive deficit procedure” be launched. Italy could face massive fines, although this is unlikely.

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