VILNIUS Portugal should stick to the budget deficit reduction targets agreed with international lenders, the head of euro zone finance ministers Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Friday after Lisbon said a softer goal for next year would be better.
Portugal's Deputy Prime Minister Paulo Portas told a parliamentary commission on Wednesday the budget deficit goal set for next year should be 4.5 percent of GDP rather than the agreed 4 percent.
"I think it's important to stick to what we've now agreed within the programme, also including the deficit targets," Dijsselbloem told reporters ahead of a meeting of euro zone finance ministers.
"I don't think it's a good signal to keep the discussion alive whether the targets should be more or less," he said.
Later in the meeting euro zone ministers briefly discussed Portugal and are to debate it in more detail later in November.
"A rigorous implementation of the agreed policy... will ensure a long lasting economic recovery," Dijsselbloem told reporters after the first round of talks.
Dijsselbloem said Portugal, which showed the fastest growth in the bloc in the second quarter, reassured its partners the government remained fully committed to the programme.
Portugal, Ireland and Spain should exit international aid programmes in the coming nine months.
"I can tell you that there will be no single rule or uniform pattern to be followed here," European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn told reporters.
"We will need to look very carefully at what the optimal solution will be in each case to ensure a successful exit," he said.
Ireland has already declared it would ask the euro zone bailout fund for a 10 billion euro credit line to ease its return to the markets.
The next review of Portugal's reforms by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund begins on Monday. The lenders have already eased Lisbon's deficit targets for this year and next year in March, because of a deeper than expected recession. The target for this year is 5.5 percent, down from 6.4 percent last year.
(Reporting By Martin Santa, writing by Jan Strupczewski; editing by Ron Askew)