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Let us explain our economic plans: Italian prime minister tells European leaders

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Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte gestures as he holds a news conference at Chigi Palace in Rome
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte gestures as he holds a news conference at Chigi Palace in Rome -
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REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo
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Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte on Tuesday said that European authorities should give Rome a chance to explain its economic plans before criticising them.

"Before expecting us to admit we have made a mistake... he (Jean-Claude Juncker) should give us the possibility to better explain our policies," Conte told reporters in Rome.

Conte was responding to criticism by Juncker, the outgoing European Commission president, who on Tuesday made scathing remarks against Italy's economic policies, saying that the country was "moving in an unsound direction." He added that Italy risked getting into the EU's so-called excessive deficit procedure, referring to EU regulations that require countries to reduce their high debts.

Juncker said he hoped it could be avoided, and that it depended on Rome's upcoming financial and economic commitments.

"We made it clear that we think Italy is moving in an unsound direction, so we have to take relevant decisions in that field," Juncker said.

Conte said Juncker had himself in the past admitted to making mistakes when dealing with the Greek debt crisis.

The Italian prime minister said he would hold a meeting on Wednesday with the leaders of the two parties in the ruling coalition --- the League and the 5-Star Movement -- to start discussing the 2020 budget. The budget is likely to be presented in autumn.

Italy's ongoing debt crisis --- it has the second-highest debt burden in the EU -- is a matter of concern. As the third largest economy in the eurozone, if it were to default on its debts, it would plunge the strength of the European economy as a whole.

The European Commission has already recommended starting disciplinary procedures against Italy after it broke the EU’s debt rules last year, and is likely to repeat it in 2019 and 2020.

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