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France urges Italy to stick to EU commitments

France's economy minister has warned Italy to respect its financial commitments to the EU under "whichever government." Bruno Le Maire said eurozone stability would otherwise be threatened.

Italy must continue to uphold its financial commitments to the European Union even under a possible populist new government if the stability of the eurozone is to be maintained, French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire warned on Sunday.

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"If the new government takes the risk of not respecting its commitments on debt and the deficit, but also the clean-up of the banks, the financial stability of the eurozone will be threatened," Le Maire told France's CNEWS television.

"Everyone in Italy must understand that Italy's future is in Europe and nowhere else, and if this future is to be in Europe, there are rules that must be respected," he added.

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Euroskeptic coalition plans

Le Maire's comments come as the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and far-right League party move toward forming a government in Italy, which has been in political limbo since indecisive March elections.

France's Finance and Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire speaks during a media conference

Le Maire: Italy's commitments will remain under any government

In a joint policy statement published on Friday, the two parties called for Italy to change its relations with the EU, though they stopped short of proposing the exit from the eurozone that featured in their campaign platforms.

Instead, they want a monetary union that is "appropriate for the current geopolitical and economic imbalances and consistent with the objectives of the economic union."

Read more: Opinion: Italy's M5S-League coalition is risky business

High public debt

Brussels is worried that a new Rome government will step up public spending, jeopardizing Italy's efforts to reduce its public debt in line with EU rules.

The EU forecasts that Italian public debt this year will remain at a level of 130 percent above its GDP — more than double the 60 percent stipulated by the bloc and the second-highest level in Europe after Greece.

Italy's economy is the third-largest in the eurozone, but was hard hit by the recession in the late 2000s. It has since returned by growth, but this is still well behind other eurozone nations including Germany, Spain and France.

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tj/jlw (Reuters, AFP)

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