Italy's populist leaders seek more time to end political stalemate

Anti-EU

Mattarella urged the parties to instead back a caretaker government that could lead the country until the end of the year and approve the budget.

Italian bonds and stocks were sent sharply lower on Wednesday, with investors spooked by a draft proposal from Italy's two main populist parties to radically change the country's relationship with the rest of Europe.

Both parties have a history of Euroscepticism.

The League, which is in coalition talks with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, has called for a harder line on migrants and wants to take Italy, the third largest economy in the eurozone, out of the single currency.

At present, EU treaties don't provide a procedure for a member state to leave the euro, without leaving the Union as well.

Until now, investors have been relatively calm about the prospect of an alliance between Five Star and the League.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas agreed on Friday to use the already available options to circumvent the required EU member states' unanimity when it comes to addressing foreign challenges including the Syrian war.

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But that relaxed attitude could change if a populist government in Rome were to start a serious attempt to implement its vision for a return to the pre-Maastricht days.

The 39-page draft, obtained by Huffington Post Italia (https://www.huffingtonpost.it/2018/05/15/un-comitato-di-conciliazione-parallelo-al-consiglio-dei-ministri_a_23435353/) and published late Tuesday, outlined plans by the 5 Star Movement and the League to ask the European Central Bank to forgive EUR250 billion ($294 billion) of Italian debt and renegotiate Italy's contribution to the European Union's budget.

"The leak is a watershed in the external perception of what an anti-establishment government may mean".

Italy's 10-year bond yield jumped 14 basis points to 2.08 percent, IT10YT=RR its highest level since early March. Italian shares also fell 1.8 per cent on Wednesday.

It is still far from clear whether Five Star and the League are prepared to go all the way - and in fact the bluster on the euro may simply be the product of a political compromise in their negotiations that will never translate into policy.

The partnership between the League's Matteo Salvini and Mr. Di Maio would represent a blow to mainstream European political parties across the continent.

In upbeat comments that contained few of the cautionary notes he had used in recent days, Salvini said the 5-Star and League coalition would set a precise timeline for its reforms in issues including taxation, pensions and education.

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