(Bloomberg) -- Italian Finance Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti expressed his concern at what he sees as the European Union holding up the sale of a stake in carrier ITA Airways, a key part of his government’s attempt to meet a €20 billion ($21.8 billion) privatization target.

“The privatization we are most worried about is ITA, which has gotten stuck and not by responsibility or fault of the Italian government,” Giorgetti told Bloomberg News, without naming the EU, on the sidelines of the Group of 20 meeting of economy chiefs in Sao Paulo, Brazil late Thursday.

As part of a deal announced in May, German carrier Deutsche Lufthansa AG would initially buy 41% of the successor to failed flagship airline Alitalia from the Italian state, with an option to acquire the rest later. Lufthansa’s €325 million investment is however being held up by an in-depth investigation from EU deals watchdogs, amid concerns over competition on both short- and long-haul routes.

The privatization is part of a wider government plan to sell around €20 billion in state-held stakes by 2026 to help cut Italy’s mammoth debt load. While the country’s deficit is on a downward path, its debt remains stuck at 140% of economic output.

A spokesperson for the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, declined to comment.

The commission is gearing up to issue a so-called statement of objections cataloging certain risks arising from the deal, Bloomberg reported last week. The formal warning — increasingly common in complex or potentially troublesome transactions — could come before the Easter break in late March.

The warning will press Lufthansa to come forward with remedies to solve the Brussels-based regulator’s concerns. Should Lufthansa not file suitable concessions, which increasingly in airline mergers include not only slot remedies but also potential divestments of assets, the investments risk a potential block from regulators. 

Lufthansa’s proposed deal marks the latest attempt to sell ITA. Alitalia officially ceased operations in 2021. 

--With assistance from Chiara Albanese.

(Updates with European Commission declines to comment in fifth paragraph)

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