The Latest on Italy’s plans to ramp up public spending (all times local):

5:10 p.m.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte says after a day of defending the country’s budget plan to allies that there is no reason to fear the EU’s criticisms.

Conte, in a post on Facebook Thursday, said that the measures are “well-considered, well-constructed and well-realized,” and he said the draft was “the only instrument that we have to ensure economic growth and social development to our country.”

Conte added that “we knew that these measures devised to satisfy the needs of Italian citizens, long unanswered, are not in line with the expectations of the European Commission,” and that the Italian government was prepared to respond to comments.

Conte, who met with the leaders of Germany, France and the Netherlands on the summit sidelines, said that the measures were “indispensable if we want to change course.”

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1:25 p.m.

The head of one of Italy’s two ruling populist parties says unauthorized changes were made to the draft budget, suggesting a possible rift in the coalition government.

Luigi Di Maio, the head of the 5-Star Movement, on Thursday threatened to lodge a formal criminal complaint. He told a late-night talk show that the draft budget presented to President Sergio Mattarella’s office contained a proposal to extend a tax amnesty on money held abroad and brought back to Italy. The 5-Star Movement opposes such a move as it risks laundering “corrupt or mafia capital.”

Matteo Salvini, the leader of the League party, called the accusation “surreal.”

Premier Giuseppe Conte told reporters in Brussels that he would review the draft law line by line when he returns Friday to Rome. He denied a rift in the governing coalition.

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1:00 p.m.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is warning his Italian counterpart Giuseppe Conte not to break the budgetary rules set out by the European Union.

Rutte met with Conte at Thursday’s EU summit, where Conte is on the defensive for filing a draft budget for 2019 that has a deficit level three times as large as Italy originally promised.

Rutte said in a statement that he expressed Dutch concerns regarding Italy’s budget plans and said he was giving “full support” to the European Commission, which is vetting the draft after having expressed its skepticism.

Italian leaders say the budget plan will boost economic growth through higher spending, but other EU countries are concerned it will add to Italy’s already heavy public debt load.

Source: The Associated Press

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