France and Germany will be pitched against the European Commission in court in late April for their violation of the EU's Growth and Stability Pact.
The European Court of Justice confirmed in a statement that the first hearing in the case would take place on April 28, 2004 in Luxembourg. Court sources said that legal teams for both parties will plead their case orally before judges in a metter that could be settled as early as mid-July. The case was brought by the European Commission in January after finance ministers decided to suspend disciplinary action against France and Germany for breaching the rules that underpin the euro. These rules state that countries in the euro-zone -- the 12 member states that use the currency -- must not run a budget deficit above 3 percent of gross domestic product over a year. This deficit ceiling has been repeatedly broken by Paris and Berlin -- the euro-zone's two biggest economies. The commission has thus decided to initiate legal action against the two countries that could end in billion-euro fines being levied on France and Germany. Meanwhile, in a separate development, one of the main critics of France and Germany, the Netherlands, announced on Wednesday that its budget deficit would also exceed the 3 percent limit. (EUobserver.com)