Moody's downgrades Italy credit rating on debt and deficit concerns

League party leader Matteo Salvini speaks at the media after a round of consultations with Italy's newly appointed Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at the Lower House in Rome Italy

REUTERS Tony GentileEU Sanctions Against Russia Senseless- Italian Interior Minister Salvini

On Wednesday Conte said he saw no room for changing tack and on Thursday described the budget as "beautiful".

Despite the strong language in a letter deeming the budget inadmissible, both the Italian premier and economic minister continued to voice optimism that they could win consent by illustrating their plans.

France's president Emmanuel Macron has been pushing for reforms, including a eurozone budget, that irked Germany and the Netherlands among other fiscal hawks that are anxious that rich member states would have to hand out more poorer, less competitive European Union countries.

I will continue to make the case that in Europe this principle applies: "responsibility and solidarity, liability and control - those are two sides of the same coin", she added to laud applause.

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Underscoring growing concern over Italy, the European Commission sent Rome a warning letter on Thursday over the budget, the first formal step of a procedure that could lead to Brussels rejecting the budget and to fines against Italy.

European Union officials have long signaled it will be very hard for the commission not to reject Italy's spending plans if the government's targets remained unchanged. Even a default on Italy's debt alone might not be enough to capsize the entire Eurozone - but coupled with a possible "no-deal" Brexit, Italy's brewing crisis could deal significant damage to the euro area.

"We have so numerous opponents to the outside, which have an interest to have an Italy precarious, knees and slavish (...), that we have a duty to listen to us", said Mr Salvini, while promising that the text would protect them in spite of "millions of Italians hostage to the tax man". They argue that they were elected to implement expensive measures such as tax cuts, a lower retirement age and new benefits for the poor which can't be put off. Italy needs the extra spending to help boost economic growth, they say.

"I cannot imagine the euro without Italy and Italy without the euro, " Moscovici said after his meeting with Tria during which he delivered the letter.

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Conte will fly home to another controversy.

The coalition government of Salvini's far-right League party and the Five Star movement (M5S) was to meet Saturday to discuss its budget.

European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici talks to the media during a press conference, in Rome, Friday, Oct. 19, 2018.

The downgrade from Moody's - from Baa2 to Baa3 with a stable outlook - is the latest move by worldwide financial watchdogs sounding the alarm over Italy's economic health.

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Luigi Di Maio, the head of the 5-Star Movement, said Friday that he was sure a solution would be found, adding "we will hardly let the government fall over an amnesty for whoever launders or self-launders money".

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