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Dont treat Italy like Greece, Spains Borrell tells Brussels

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The European Commission should not respond to the budget spat with Italy the same way as it treated Greece, Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said today.

“It would be a big mistake for the European Commission to try to deal with Italy the same way they dealt with Greece, imposing a very tough constraint on the budget, a strong austerity policy, because Italy is not Greece,” Borrell said in an interview with POLITICOs Ryan Heath.

The Italian government, an alliance of the far-right League and anti-establishment 5Star Movement, wants to boost spending to kickstart the economy and flout EU fiscal rules, risking a so-called excessive deficit procedure by the Commission that could result in fines.

“Italy cannot afford a second recession,” said Borrell, a veteran Socialist politician and former president of the European Parliament. “I hope the Italian government and the European Commission will be able to slow down their mutual criticism and start a kind of agreement, Portugal-style.”

Borrell said Spains Portuguese neighbors had secured sufficient fiscal flexibility from Brussels to put the economy on a path to growth, and he suggested that Spain, too, could benefit from such flexibility. But in Spains case, he said, the opposition rather than Brussels is now blocking Prime Minister