ROME (Reuters) – The leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, Luigi Di Maio, said on Monday that Italy should quit the euro zone unless it manages to change the bloc’s rules on public finances.
5-Star, which leads in opinion polls ahead of an election expected in March, says if it wins power it will lobby Italy’s EU partners to loosen the so-called Fiscal Compact which imposes steep budget cuts for high-debt countries like Italy.
The maverick party threatens to hold a referendum on Italy’s euro membership unless it is allowed to boost public investment and raise the budget deficit above the current limit of 3 percent of gross domestic product.
Di Maio has recently softened the party’s anti-euro rhetoric, saying 5-Star is “pro-Europe” and calling the euro referendum a “last resort” to be used only if Italy is unable to win any concessions.
“If we should arrive at the referendum, which for me is a last resort because first I want to go to Europe and try to change a series of rules … it’s clear that I would vote to leave, because it would mean Europe hasn’t listened to us on anything” he said in a television interview on Monday.
“But today I see an opportunity for Europe (to reform)”, he told the private station La7.
Former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, the leader of the ruling Democratic Party (PD), said in a tweet that “this time Di Maio has been clear… he would vote to leave the euro. I say it would be madness for the Italian economy.”
The PD, which has split under Renzi’s leadership, lags 5-Star by some 4 percentage points in most opinion polls, but no party or coalition is seen winning an outright majority at the election, which is expected to result in a hung parliament.
(Reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Crispian Balmer)