Netherlands’ public deficit back on track

The Council is satisfied that the Dutch ‘excessive
deficit’ is back under control and is calling
for a detailed report on Greece’s deficit and debt data
going back to 1997 to be ready in time for
the next EcoFin meeting.

Based on a statement by Economic and Financial Affairs
Commissioner Joaquín Almunia, the Council has
expressed its satisfaction with the Netherlands’
progress towards rectifying its ‘excessive
deficit’. This was one of the main conclusions of the
EcoFin meeting in Luxembourg on 21 October. In June
the Council had noted a deficit of 3.2% of GDP in
2003, putting the Dutch in breach of the 3%
maximum reference value foreseen in the treaty.

The Netherlands, which had a deadline of 2
October to decide on measures to correct the
deficit, are targeting a 2.6% deficit in
2005, with projected deficits of 2.1% in 2006 and
1.9% in 2007. The Commission has not yet published its
Autumn forecasts and cannot yet confirm if it agrees
with these projections.

Meanwhile, following Greece’s admission of
errors in budgetary data supplied to the
Commission prior to its joining the eurozone, the
Council said it was looking forward to a detailed report
on Greece’s deficit and debt data back to 1997. It
expressed hope that the report would be finalised before
the next EcoFin Council meeting.

Following the meeting, Dutch finance minister
Gerrit Zalm was quoted by the Financial Times as
saying that Germany, Italy, Portugal and Greece were
all at risk of breaching the Stability and Growth
Pact next year on “unchanged policies”. The
paper added that a proposal to widen Eurostat’s
powers to audit national figures had met with opposition,
in particular from France and Britain. 

The Stability and Growth Pact has been effectively in
abeyance since the Council decided back in November not
to take action, as recommended by the Commission, against
France and Germany for persistent violations of the
rules.

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