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EU leaders reject more US-style spending

BRUSSELS — Several EU leaders rejected US pressure to plough more taxpayer cash into their faltering economies ahead of a summit in Brussels despite growing calls also at home for more action.

"I am against us Europeans (responding to) the American wish for more voluminous economic recovery package," said Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker.

Washington has pressed its European allies in the run-up to a G20 meeting of worldwide economic powers in London on April 2 to play a bigger role in reviving global demand by doing more to prop up their own faltering economies.

The EU governments are also facing mounting calls at home to do more to jumpstart economic activity, with many companies and industries warning of sweeping job cuts if the beginnings of recovery do not soon emerge.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Balkenende said that he did "not understand criticism that Europe isn’t doing enough because we did a lot."

Swedish Prime Minister Frederik Reinfeldt said that in Europe "we have done already a lot" to revive economic activity and had no room for manoeuvre in their public finances for further action. "A huge number of member states are now in excessive deficits that creates problems now and for the future.”

Likewise, Austrian Finance Minister Jozef Proell dismissed the US pressure, arguing that "we already have a lot in the pipeline."

The United States is banking on a 787-billion-dollar (575-billion-euro) stimulus plan to drag the world’s biggest economy out of its deepest recession in decades.

Meanwhile, the 27-nation European Union has committed to economic stimulus measures in 2009 and 2010 worth EUR 400 billion (USD 545 billion), equivalent to 3.3 percent of the bloc’s gross domestic product.

The figure includes both national and EU level stimulus measures as well as automatic increases in social spending, such as unemployment benefits, which kick in when the economy weakens.

The International Monetary Fund said Thursday the G20 leading economic powers had not done enough to fight the worsening recession, recommending further efforts.