The EUs budget chief has sparked outrage amongst eurosceptics after he suggested that financial and bond markets would put pressure on Italian voters not to elect populists by undermining the countrys economy.
In an interview with German television Gnther Oettinger, Germans EU Commissioner, sparked fury among eurosceptics, who accused him of bullying Italian voters to vote in a certain way.
The intervention came Italian populist partioes moved to form the first eurosceptic government in an EU founding country, a would-be coalition between the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and far-right League.
My concern and my expectation is that the coming weeks will show that markets, that government bonds, that Italys economic development could be [affected in a manner so] drastic that this could be a possible signal to voters not to choose populists from the left and right, he told the DW channel.
The intervention prompted an apparent dressing down from the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, who tweeted ominously: My appeal to all EU institutions: please respect the voters. We are there to serve them, not to lecture them.
But eurosceptic MEP and former Ukip leader Nigel Farage replied to Mr Tusk: Too late. He added that the budget commissioners contribution amounted to disgusting bullying comments, and suggested that they would fuel discontent.
Mr Oettingers boss also weighed in via his spokesperson, Margaritis Schinas, who said: President Juncker was informed of these unwise remarks attributed to Commissioner Oettinger.
He asks me to clarify again, once and for all, the official commission position: It is the Italians and only the Italians who will decide on the future of their country. Nobody else.
Mr Oetinger is widely seen in Brussels as gaffe-prone. In 2016 he defended using the term slant eyes in reference to Chinese businessmen, arguing that he was speaking in slang and did not indicate a lack of respect. He has previous described Italy as ungovernable and also declared an apocalypse after the Fukishima nuclear disaster, alarming markets and officials.
In a perhaps more lucid moment, he once described David Camerons EU referendum remain campaign as shit.
The issue of EU interference in elections is significant in Italy: Between 2011 and 2013 former EU commissioner Mario Monti was made prime minister leading a government of Brussels-backed technocrats despite his never having been elected to office. He introduced controversial austerity measures and labour market reforms.
Italys mostly ceremonial president Sergio Mattarella has, perhaps temporarily, scuppered the formation of a coalition between the two populist parties after he blocked the appointment of a eurosceptic economy minister.
Paolo Savona had called Italys membership of the eurozone a German cage, but Mr Mattarella said membership of the single currency was not in the parties general election manifesto and should not be introduced by stealth after the election. Negotiations over who will form the next Italian government continue.