Only the Italian government can save Italy, the markets can't, former Eurogroup chief says 

  • Shares in Italian banks Ubi Banca, Intesa Sanpaolo, UniCredit and Banco BPM were down more than 3 percent at about 11 a.m. local time (5 a.m. ET).

Italy's government must take action to control its finances amid further market volatility, the former head of Eurogroup told CNBC on Thursday.

Markets have been nervous about Rome's spending plans since Italian voters elected a populist government in the spring. Italian borrowing costs rose Thursday morning after reports of ongoing tensions within the coalition cabinet. These concerns have also affected shares in Italian banks.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who led the group of 19 euro zone finance ministers, said that "Italy is a case in itself."

"To be quite honest, the Italian government will have to save Italy, the markets won't do it, Europe won't do it. Italians need to address their own issues," Dijsselbloem, who has also served as Dutch finance minister, said.

"All this infighting of the populist coalition — they are simply losing time and that is a scarce commodity in Italy," he told CNBC's Joumanna Bercetche.

ROME, ITALY - JULY 24: Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and the Minister of Economy Giovanni Tria attend a press conference in Palazzo Chigi.
Simona Granati | Corbis News | Getty Images
ROME, ITALY - JULY 24: Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and the Minister of Economy Giovanni Tria attend a press conference in Palazzo Chigi.

There are divergences within the populist government — formed by the leftist Five Star Movement and the right-wing Lega. Both parties want to deliver key campaign pledges that risk increasing the country's deficit in 2019. However, some technocrats in the government, principally Finance Minister Giovanni Tria, want to present a budget that will not take markets on a negative drive.

Concerns over the government's fiscal policy have increased borrowing costs on several occasions since March's general election. This has put pressure on Italian banks, which hold about 18 percent of the country's sovereign bonds.

"Italian banks have started to reduce their exposure to their own sovereign, after years in which it only increased. So that has started, but it will take many years to come," Dijsselbloem said.

Shares in Italian banks Ubi Banca, Intesa Sanpaolo, UniCredit and Banco BPM were down more than 3 percent at about 11 a.m. local time (5 a.m. ET).