EU's Rehn says no relaxing of budget goals for Dutch
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The Netherlands must stick to a plan to cut its budget deficit to 3.0 percent of GDP in 2013, the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs said on Wednesday, emphasising that it was wrong to think EU budget rules could be relaxed.
"It is essential for the sake of confidence in the Dutch economy that the country pursues its fiscal consolidation efforts with determination," Olli Rehn said in a statement.
"Rumours of a relaxation of the rules of the stability and growth pact are unfounded."
The Dutch government has said it will bring the deficit down to 3.0 percent of gross domestic product next year in line with EU expectations, from a forecast 4.6 percent this year.
However, there have been reports in the Dutch media that the country might seek to have the target for 2013 softened, amid a push across the euro zone for growth-focused policies to be emphasised over austerity and budget cuts.
Spain, which had a budget deficit of 8.5 percent last year and is supposed to cut it to 3.0 percent next year, is also a candidate for a softening of the 2013 goal, although it too has said it intends to stick to agreed goals.
The European Commission will present its assessment of how countries are doing in meeting deficit goals at the end of May.
The Dutch government struck a last minute deal last month to make extra spending cuts and other measures to meet its 2013 deficit target. Rehn said that deal needed to be upheld.
"Last month's budgetary agreement includes permanent measures and structural reforms that are important for the sustainability of Dutch public finances and it needs to be implemented," he said.
"This is in line with the stability and growth pact, which underlines the structural sustainability of public finances in the medium term."
(Writing by Luke Baker; editing by Rex Merrifield)
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