Agreement reached on strict EU fiscal rules

Wednesday 20 February 2013 13.40
Strict fiscal rules agreed for eurozone member states
Strict fiscal rules agreed for eurozone member states

Agreement has been reached between eurozone member states and European Parliament negotiators on strict new fiscal rules.

The rules are specifically for eurozone member states, and include measures for countries such as Ireland, which are expected to emerge from a bailout programme.

The two pieces of legislation could see the European Commission asking member states to revise their draft budgetary plans if they breach EU deficit rules.

The rules, known as the "Two Pack", were drawn up as a response to the eurozone debt crisis and envisage further economic and budgetary co-ordination within the eurozone.

They build on the so-called "Six Pack" of rules that are designed for all EU member states.

The negotiations were carried out under the Irish presidency of the EU.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has welcomed the agreement.

"I very much welcome this morning's agreement on the "Two Pack". This is a key piece of the eurozone's economic architecture and has been an Irish presidency priority," he said in a statement.

The "Two Pack" legislation is more specifically designed for member states who have already breached the 3% deficit limit, and who are experiencing "severe financial difficulties".

It also sets out the "enhanced surveillance" role the European Commission would have of a country's budget and economic policies if it is either in a bailout programme or is emerging from one.

Under the proposal, eurozone members' draft budget plans are presented to the Commission, which will then assess if they comply with the Stability and Growth Pact, which is designed to ensure budget deficits are kept at 3% of GDP and debt levels at 60% of GDP.

Draft budget plans must also comply with the so-called European Semester, the process by which eurozone members are required to follow policy recommendations that are specific to individual member states.

It is understood that amendments put forward by MEPs mean that intervention by the European Commission in a member state's budgetary process should be balanced to ensure that budget cuts are not at the expense of investment in healthcare, education and in job-producing sectors.

It is also understood there will be increased oversight by national parliaments and the European Parliament of the Commission's increased powers.

The work of the Troika in programme countries would also be subject to further oversight.

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