25th Oct 2016


This WEEK in the European Union

  • Eurostat will publish the deficit and debt figures for all 27 EU states on Monday (Photo: ansik)

Spain's deficit troubles are likely to dominate the Brussels debate this week, as the statistics office is to publish the 2008-2011 figures for all EU member states on Monday (23 April).

The statistics are keenly awaited for the EU commission to recommend further steps in the so-called excessive deficit procedure against 23 out of EU's 27 member states. Spain's deficit in 2011 should have been 6.6 percent of GDP, but the new conservative government earlier this year said its predecessor had in fact left a 8.5 percent deficit, as real figures from the regions who are responsible for some parts of the overall budget came in later.

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Madrid last week passed further budget cuts to the tune of €10 billion, after having slashed €44 billion in order to bring down the deficit to 5.3 percent of GDP this year. But markets are sceptical this will work, amid worsening recession and unemployment. The government's borrowing costs have since risen to close to bail-out territory.

Foreign ministers meeting Monday in Luxembourg are expected to roll back sanctions on Burma after the government allowed opposition parties to take up seats in the by-elections. They are also set to increase sanctions on the Syrian regime, as it continues to open fire on protesters. Argentina's controversial nationalisation of a Spanish oil company is also on the agenda.

EU affairs ministers on Tuesday will have another round of discussions on the bloc's future budget for 2014-2020, with talks set to revolve around structural funds and how to link them to economic performance of member states.

A final deal is not expected under the EU Danish presidency which ends in June, but Copenhagen wants to put as many elements together as possible, including the provision for all structural funds to be frozen if a country does not stick to its deficit rules.

Currently, only so-called cohesion funds for 17 poorer countries can be frozen if a state is in breach of the deficit rules. If extended, funding freezes could also apply to social funding, fisheries and rural development monies.

The Prime Minister of Hungary, the first ever country to have a funding freeze imposed - from 1 January 2013 - if it does not curb its deficit, will be in Brussels Tuesday to top EU officials to discuss the issue.

On Wednesday, MEPs dealing with civil liberties will travel to Lithuania to visit a secret site which was used by the CIA to deport and transfer alleged terrorism suspects as part of the 'War on terror' carried out by the George W. Bush administration.

The following day, interior ministers in Luxembourg will discuss whether to set up a system - inspired by the very same Bush administration - for collecting and screening all air travellers' personal data flying into and out of the EU and using it for anti-terrorism purposes.

Migration and the ever-lasting debate on allowing the EU commission to have a say in the temporary re-introduction of border checks are also on the agenda.

On Friday, justice ministers will try to agree on parts of a bill criminalising insider dealing and market manipulation - a follow-up to the 2008 financial crisis caused by the collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank.

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