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Europe

EU to Bend Rules for New Member States

Giving the 10 countries joining the EU next month some leeway will allow them some economic breathing space. But it will not make it any easier for them to join the euro. "We might perhaps allow a multi-annual period to allow them to exceed the 3 percent of GDP... in order to avoid an undesirable economic impact," Pedro Solbes, the commissioner for economic affairs, announced in the European Parliament. "Obviously, we will have to consider the situation of the new member states and... allow some flexibility from the absolute rigour of the rules." Currently, all EU members have to strive for a deficit - tax receipts minus public spending - under 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), although the requirement is not binding for member states outside the euro. This will not make it any easier for accession countries to join the euro. New member states will still need a deficit under three percent of GDP before being allowed to join the euro, confirmed Commission spokesperson Gerassimos Thomas. Solbes stressed that, despite offering this leeway, the three percent limit should remain the "anchor" of the EU's economic rules. (EUobserver.com)

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