Sweden, Britain oppose new sanctions for fiscal laggards

17th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on Thursday rejected the idea of introducing sanctions for fiscal laxity against EU countries not using the euro, summing up a growing opposition.

"I'm in favour of using the system as it is now," Reinfeldt said as he arrived for an EU summit in Brussels focussed on tackling Europe's financial and economic woes.

He pointed out that those existing rules and penalties for the 16 eurozone nations, which require governments to keep public deficit and debt below agreed levels, have never been used.

"We haven't used the measures inside the pact; it was put in place to keep the euro stable," said Reinfeldt, in comments bound to find favour among other non-euro nations such as Britain.

"We already have the solution, the discussion should rather be how to use the tools we already have," he underlined.

Earlier this week France and Germany called for the EU's stability pact -- which limits public deficits -- to be toughened up with the creation of new penalties for bad fiscal pupils, with the withdrawal of voting rights for EU decision-making.

The ballooning debt levels have been allowed to carry on unchecked until countries such as Greece, which recently required a multi-billion euro bailout from the EU and the IMF, as well as Spain and others have found their economies threatened by the cots of borrowing and the level of repayments they are now subject to.

However the near-unanimous view is that the kind of changes envisaged by Paris and Berlin would require changes to the EU treaties, a long and complicated procedure which few capitals have the stomach for after the difficult gestation of the EU's reforming Lisbon Treaty which came into effect last December.

"I don't think we should ask for treaty change, very time consuming," said Reinfeldt.

New British Prime Minister David Cameron, attending his first European Union summit, agreed that "we should be focusing on the issues of substance and not of institutional reform."

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who is also head of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, backed the sentiment from outside the eurozone.

"Fundamentally I have nothing against this proposal," by the French and the Germans, he told the Luxembourg Wort daily.

"But to achieve that we would have to change the Lisbon Treaty and in my opinion that is not a possibility in the short or medium term.

"I would prefer that we reinforce the preventive measures in the stability pact," he said.

© 2010 AFP

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