Swiss to EU: learn from our budget discipline

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Swiss President Doris Leuthard urged the European Union on Monday to take measures to prevent a new debt crisis and suggested that it could learn a lesson from Swiss budgetary discipline.

Leuthard said after meeting European Union president Herman Van Rompuy that Switzerland, which is not a member of the 27-nation EU, wants the bloc to succeed.

"We are in solidarity. We want a strong, economically credible Europe," she told a press conference alongside Van Rompuy.

She then pointed to Switzerland's low debt-to-gross domestic product ratio to quip about the failure by most EU states to respect the bloc's Maastricht Treaty, which requires eurozone countries to keep total debt under 60 percent of GDP and the public deficit below 3.0 percent.

"Switzerland has a debt level of 39 percent of GDP. We fulfill the Maastricht criteria, if they still exist," Leuthard said.

The Swiss leader called on Van Rompuy, which is leading a task force examining ways to reinforce the bloc's budgetary rules, to find measures that will restore confidence in Europe.

"We hope that the president (Van Rompuy) and his task force will be successful in finding a mechanism for the future that will stabilise the situation, restore confidence and positions Europe again where it belongs."

Nearly every EU state -- 24 out of 27 -- is under the European Commission's excessive deficit procedure for exceeding budget limits under the bloc's Stability and Growth Pact.

The debt crisis in Europe has shaken the value of the euro, forcing the EU to bailout Greece and set up a 750-billion-euro financial safety net with the IMF to help any other state that may need help.

Van Rompuy's task force is weighing whether to impose tough sanctions to punish countries that violate the group's fiscal rules.

© 2010 AFP

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