EU ministers join new euro chief with Spain in focus

22nd January 2013, Comments 0 comments

All EU finance ministers, including new Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem, met on Tuesday amid a new warning about Spain's finances and 11 eurozone states won permission to work on a new tax on financial transactions.

Dijsselbloem's sole candidacy to head the inner group of eurozone finance ministers was opposed by Spain in the overnight vote, and Madrid will remain a thorny question throughout the Dutchman's 30-month mandate.

Spain, a member of the eurozone, is now Europe's youth unemployment black spot, with a rate of about 57 percent.

And the European Commission warned on Tuesday that the country's 2012 and 2013 public deficit targets are again veering off target.

Spain was supposed to keep the 2012 figure to within 6.3 percent of gross domestic product, but a Commission report said this would "probably not" be achieved.

Brussels publishes full economic forecasts for the whole European Union on February 22, but expects Spain to register a deficit of 8.0 percent in 2012 and 6.1 percent again this year.

The previous target for 2013 was 4.5 percent.

Spanish Finance Minister Luis De Guindos said the "complaint" over Dijsselbloem was simple, moaning that Madrid is "under represented in the European institutions" and that this was "unjust."

Almost all the top eurozone posts are now held by nationals of Triple A-rated members.

Dijsselbloem replaced Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker after eight years in the post.

The 46-year-old newcomer said it was "a distinct honour to be given the possibility to succeed Jean-Claude", adding that it was key to "preserve the social European model that we so much cherish".

But he faced fresh scrutiny at talks between all 27 European Union finance ministers that continued on Tuesday, with the Netherlands sitting out the moves to launch a tax on financial transactions.

The ministers gave the 11 a green light just to continue work on the scheme, not to legislate for it.

A diplomat said that Britain was relaxed about the issue, even though it has long argued forcibly against the tax.

Firm backer and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Dijsselbloem's nomination was "a good decision", while European Union president Herman Van Rompuy said that all 17 eurozone national leaders were fully behind Dijsselbloem.

The eurozone is currently labouring under a high unemployment rate of almost 12 percent.

In a submission addressed to counterparts, Dijsselbloem said: "Our economic policies need to be geared towards promoting strong, sustainable and inclusive economic growth, ensuring fiscal discipline, enhancing competitiveness and boosting employment, and in particular youth employment".


© 2013 AFP

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