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EU commissioner admits crisis 'errors', chides Italy

Economic and financial commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, said fundamental errors had been made in responding to the crisis while chiding Italy for "euroscepticism and xenophobia"
Economic and financial commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, said fundamental errors had been made in responding to the crisis while chiding Italy for "euroscepticism and xenophobia" Economic and financial commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, said fundamental errors had been made in responding to the crisis while chiding Italy for "euroscepticism and xenophobia" AFP/File
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Paris (AFP)

European Commissioner for Economic Affairs Pierre Moscovici on Wednesday said "fundamental errors" in dealing with the financial crisis which hit a decade ago had stoked EU political tensions.

"Political tensions which Europe is going through are in my view the direct result of the way the European Union and the member states managed the economic crisis," Moscovici said on the fringes of an OECD forum meeting in Paris.

He admitted that two "fundamental errors" had been made -- "putting the effectiveness of economic decision-making ahead of the representativeness of democratic decision-making" and also "not having been able to protect the most vulnerable" citizens.

He said that as a former French finance minister before switching to the Commission he had to acknowledge his own role in "actively contributing to the reinforcement of European economic governance".

Ten years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers lit the touch paper for the financial crisis Moscovici said he regretted that "decisions gave the impression of being taken by experts and technocrats rather than politicians".

Moscovici's comments echoed similar statements made last month by the secretary general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Angel Gurria.

But the former injected a note of optimism as he tweeted that "I hope our fellow citizens remain confident in the strength of the European model -- a model (which economic, social, democratic, unique in the world."

Moscovici meanwhile blasted what he termed the "resolute euroscepticism and xenophobia" of Italy's populist government, whose emergence was one political spinoff of the crisis.

"The Italians have... chosen a resolutely eurosceptic and xenophobic government that, on issues of migration and budget, is trying to get out of its European obligations," he told Wednesday's forum.

Moscovici angered Rome earlier this week by urging it to tell Italian people the truth about the need for sound spending -- a comment which drew the ire of Italy's deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio who heads the populist Five Star Movement.

Italy caused concern last month by unveiling a budget raising spending and pushing the public deficit to around 2.4 percent of gross domestic product, hiking public debt above its already sky high level of 131 percent of GDP.

Di Maio's fellow deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, then went as far as to say he "did not care" if the Brussels rejected the budget plan.

However, the issue looked to be cooling Wednesday afternoon after after Finance Minister Giovanni Tria said the deficit would be squeezed "after 2019" given Rome saw reducing public debt as "fundamental".

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