Dutch minister relieved over new EU budget sanctions
Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager has said that he is satisfied with the new EU sanctions aimed at strengthening budgetary discipline.
"It's an uphill battle, but this will make Europe stronger and healthier," the minister told reporters in Luxembourg after a Monday evening meeting of EU finance ministers. Minister De Jager said he had done a lot of talking to sway opponents like Germany and France, who were reluctant to apply sharper sanctions.
In a change from the current practice, the ministers have agreed that sanctions will kick in automatically when countries break the 60 percent national debt ceiling. Such a measure should prevent a repetition of banking crises like the one currently having Greece in its grip. Punitive measures can also be applied before a country crosses the 3 percent threshold for its public deficit.
The automatic application of the rules can only be blocked if two-thirds of member states object. Countries which break the EU budget rules will be obliged to deposit a substantial sum into an EU reserve fund. If they don't improve their budgetary situation within six months, they forfeit the money, otherwise it will be returned.
The finance ministers' draft will next go before an EU summit on Thursday and Friday, and then on to the European Parliament, before the measures are implemented. Dutch Finance Minister De Jager said he expects the European leaders to support the proposal at their Brussels summit.
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