29th Sep 2023

Spain calls for new EU spending rules on fiscal 'pilgrimage'

  • Spain's economy minister Nadia Calviño pledged to present a new draft version of EU spending rules at a meeting in Luxembourg next month (Photo: Flickr)
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At a two-day gathering of finance ministers in Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia in northwestern Spain, that ended on Saturday (16 September), Spanish economy minister Nadia Calviño called on her colleagues to agree on new spending rules before the end of the year.

Comparing the negotiations to a "Camino" [a pilgrimage], a reference to the coastal city's history as one of Europe's premier holy places and pilgrimage sites, Calviño pledged to present a new draft of the so-called Stability and Growth Pact at a meeting of ministers in Luxembourg next month, with the intention to push it through to trilogue negotiations with the EU Parliament in November.

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"It may be challenging," European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said at a news conference on Saturday. "But the Spanish Presidency is committed to this timeframe."

The EU Commission presented a draft text in April, but negotiations have since become bogged down, with France and Germany at opposite ends of the debate.

While Germany, backed by Sweden and Finland, wants uniform spending rules for all, France and Italy claim more fiscal flexibility will be needed for years to come to help deal with higher investment needs in clean energy and to ensure funds for Ukraine.

For his part, German finance minister Christian Lindner said that "expansionary" fiscal policy should end and states should instead refocus on "increasing growth", which, he believes, will be best accomplished by lowering taxes, reducing planning times, and removing bureaucracy.

Fiscal rules have been suspended until the end of this year to help countries deal with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but will come back into force in 2024 whether member states can agree on new rules or not.

Countries are scrambling to find a middle ground, but have yet to reach an agreement, and there was little sign France and Germany were moving closer to compromise over the weekend.

According to Calviño, 70 percent of the text had been agreed upon.

"Now the time has come for a compromise, which will need to strike the right balance between sustainable debt reduction paths and ensuring the necessary fiscal space for investments," she said.

Spain, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, is expected to schedule extra meetings before the end of the year in an effort to hammer out a deal.

The next meeting will occur at a gathering of the Economic and Financial Committee in Madrid in two weeks.

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