November 18, 2015 / 6:29 PM / in 2 years

If France gets EU deal on security spending so must Italy: Renzi

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi takes part in an informal meeting of European Union heads of state and government in Valletta, Malta, November 12, 2015. REUTERS/Yves Herman

ROME (Reuters) - If French spending to increase security after the Paris attacks is given special treatment under EU budget deficit rules then the same should apply for Italy, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Wednesday.

He was responding to comments by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that a bigger French security budget following last Friday’s attacks should not be treated as ordinary spending under EU rules.

“It’s clear that what counts for France also counts for Italy,” Renzi said in a television interview.

France has mounted a major security operation to track down the Islamist militants involved in the Paris attacks, in which 129 people were killed, and to avert possible further attacks. It has also stepped up its bombing campaign of Islamic State targets in Syria.

Other European countries including Italy have also boosted security arrangements following the Paris attacks.

Italy argued a year ago for some defense spending to be exempt from European Union budget rules in view of heightened security risks but the proposal had been rejected by its partners, Renzi said.

He said he was pleased that sentiment now seemed to have changed.

The Commission said this week Italy was among four countries whose 2016 budget risked breaking EU rules, as it slowed the pace of previously agreed fiscal consolidation.

Italy’s public debt, at around 133 percent of national output, is the second-highest in the euro zone after Greece‘s.

Rome’s draft budget, which must be passed by parliament by the end of the year, raises spending on “anti-terrorism” security measures by 70 million euros ($74.45 million) in 2016.

Government officials have said they are considering adding 120 million euros and Renzi said on Wednesday the amount may be further increased after he has discussed the issue with party leaders.

On Tuesday, the EU economic commissioner Pierre Moscovici said that after the Paris attacks security was an absolute priority.

“We will reevaluate all possible budgetary expenses of these new developments,” he told a news conference.

Euro zone finance ministers will gather in Brussels on Nov. 23 for an extraordinary meeting dedicated to assess the draft budgets of the 19 countries sharing the euro.

($1 = 0.9402 euros)

Reporting By Gavin Jones; Editing by Gareth Jones

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