EU gets budget letter from Italy, prepares answer

Left to right: vice premier Luigi Di Maio, premier Giuseppe Conte and vice premier Matteo Salvini, pose as they arrive for a press conference at Chigi

Left to right: vice premier Luigi Di Maio, premier Giuseppe Conte and vice premier Matteo Salvini, pose as they arrive for a press conference at Chigi

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union says a letter of the Italian government explaining its 2019 budget proposals has arrived, the latest step in a dispute between the two sides on the issue.

Italy's plans have widely been criticized by many EU leaders and the Commission chief as being out of line with the bloc's spending constraints. It wants to increase spending, but that will keep it from lowering debt as promised.

Margaritis Schinas, the European Commission spokesman, said Monday that the letter "has just arrived" and added that on Tuesday "the Commission will discuss the procedure and will determine" its next steps.

The Commission handed Italy a stinging letter last week warning that the nation's significantly higher deficit targets represented a deviation "unprecedented in the history" of EU budget rules.