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From L-R: Five Star's Di Maio, Prime Minister Conte, Lega's Salvini. Photo: Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

Italy's populist government is offering only limited concessions to the European Commission, which rejected Rome's big-spending budget last month and said the country risked "sleepwalking into instability."

Where things stand: The budget includes a deficit target of 2.4% of GDP, which Brussels says is too high for the debt-strapped country. Finance Minister Giovanni Tria has said the government must consider “the fears of our European partners," but Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said today that the government wouldn't consider bringing the target below 2.2%, per Bloomberg.

Michele Geraci, Italy's undersecretary of state for economic development, argued today at the Peterson Institute that what Brussels fears is a scenario in which economic growth is lower than the Italians project, bringing the 2.4% figure up to, say, 2.9%.

  • He says the government will crunch the numbers in the summer and, if they are on pace to exceed 2.4%, cut discretionary spending by delaying or pulling back on some programs "so that we never, never cross 2.4%."
  • Any fines from the European Commission are months away, he says, and will only come in the unlikely event that Italy massively overshoots their targets.

The bottom line: Geraci says the standoff has been more about "personality and politics than economics" and is already dying down. "If you have an argument, once you start smiling, usually the other guy starts smiling back at you," he said.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Technology

Scoop: Facebook exec warns of "more bad headlines"

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

In a post to staffers Saturday obtained by Axios, Facebook VP of global affairs Nick Clegg warned the company that worse coverage could be on the way: “We need to steel ourselves for more bad headlines in the coming days, I’m afraid.”

Catch up quick: Roughly two dozen news outlets had agreed to hold stories based on leaked materials from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen for Monday publication — but the embargo fell apart Friday night as participating newsrooms posted a batch of articles ahead of the weekend.

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

Inside Biden's Taiwan flubs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Twice this year, President Biden has blurted out commitments that the U.S. is prepared to defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion — forcing the White House to walk back his statements and leading to confusion over a high-stakes national security policy.

Why it matters: U.S. defense officials have publicly aired their concerns that China will take Taiwan by force in the next four to six years, perhaps sooner. The president's position on this question may soon have real-world, life and death consequences.