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Europe

Dutch Doubt Euro Pact Reform Will Happen in 2004

The Dutch Presidency on Tuesday cast doubt on whether a proposed reform of the rules governing the euro - due to be published by the European Commission on Friday - can be achieved in the Dutch six-month term.

Dutch finance minister Gerrit Zalm told the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee in the European Parliament: "I am waiting for the European Commission proposals, but I am not certain that we will reach an accord on reforming the [Stability and Growth] pact under the Dutch presidency." Zalm, who has always argued for the rules to be strictly implemented, was widely seen as a hardliner in the damaging row that took place between the Commission and some member states, notably France and Germany, last November. But he said on Tuesday that he wishes to avoid a repeat of this conflict - which resulted in the case being taken to the European Court of Justice - during the reform debate. "What I certainly don't want is to have again a big clash like we had in November," he said. "So if we do reach anything, it should be by consensus and agreement." The reform proposals are expected to suggest changes to the circumstances under which a deficit of over three percent is allowed and to take the individual economic situations of member states into account when assessing these excessive deficits. (EUobserver.com)

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