(Bloomberg) -- Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Italy should take charge of managing the cost of its government debt in financial markets.
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“In the division of labor of the monetary system and bringing down the spread, the country has to make sure the fundamentals are alright,” Rutte said in an interview in Brussels after a European Union summit.
The remarks indicate reluctance to extend support to prevent Italy from slipping into a sovereign debt crisis. The nation’s bond yields have climbed in recent weeks with signals the European Central Bank is preparing to raise interest rates to fight inflation.
The price of Italian 10-year government bonds has plunged in recent weeks, briefly pushing the yield past 4%, the most since 2014. Rutte said he thinks the situation is “still is manageable at the moment.”
Italy’s plight prompted the ECB to say it’s weighing a new tool to stave off turmoil in bond markets as it works on plans to tighten monetary policy.
Rutte said that it is up to the ECB to decide if more needs to be done for Italy, but that he has faith in Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s “huge credibility” to manage the situation.
“Draghi is implementing the reform plan based on the resilience program, in itself that will help to improve the fundamentals of the Italian economy,” Rutte said.
The Dutch government sides with northern EU nations in expressing caution about financial aid to debt-strapped countries.
Two years ago, Rutte pressed for “reforms in return for money” at an EU summit and left it with his desired reforms linked to 800 billion euros ($844 billion) in funds and the newly invented “handbrake” mechanism that could stop any pay outs to governments that aren’t living up to reform pledges.
Rutte said he’s willing to trigger that handbrake mechanism if needed.
“It is there to be used if needed,” he said. “It is more than just a scarecrow.”
Rutte said his outlook on the EU has developed over the years from a rather “narrow viewpoint” to one in which it is more than just one big internal market -- a “geopolitical power house” that looks after the union’s collective security.
“I used to look at the EU from the traditional stance of my party, which was very much focused on the currency, the internal market, earning a lot of money together,” Rutte said.
He also expressed confidence in the steps Italy is taking under Draghi.
“I am really fascinated and positive about the fact that you now see in Italy and other countries reforms taking place, which I was afraid I would never see in my lifetime,” Rutte said. “We like the idea that you give something, in return for reforms.”
The architect of those reforms in Italy has his support. “The best thing that happened to Italy in the last five years was Mario Draghi.”
(Updates with further details in the 11th and 12th paragraphs.)
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