Eurozone strugglers to win more time to cut their deficits

European Commission to extend deadlines as it slashes growth forecasts

Spain, Portugal and France are likely be spared pressure by Brussels to impose more austerity, despite forecasts yesterday from the European Commission showing that they will miss their deficit reduction targets.

Under the terms of the eurozone's new Fiscal Compact member states are required to limit their annual borrowing to 3 per cent of GDP. But in its winter forecast the commission said that Spain's deficit this year will come in at 6.7 per cent while Portugal's borrowing is expected to be 4.9 per cent. The deficit of France, the currency bloc's second largest member, is projected by the commission to be 3.7 per cent of GDP.

Despite this the commission's Vice-President Olli Rehn signalled yesterday that the organisation would refrain from using its powers under the Compact to levy fines on excessive borrowers and would instead give them more time to meet their fiscal commitments.

"In the case of Spain, it seems that the structural fiscal effort has been undertaken and that there has been also an unexpected shortfall of growth," he said.

Ministers from France and Portugal said yesterday that they would ask Brussels to push back their target by a year, as they pinned the blame for their respective borrowing overshoots on the weak eurozone economy. The commission now expects the eurozone to contract over the course of 2013. It slashed its forecast for growth for the 17-nation bloc to a 0.3 per cent contraction. Last autumn it had expected 0.1 per cent growth.

The decision on granting deficit reduction extensions will be taken by the commission in May, Mr Rehn said. States will need to show that they missed their targets because of the unavoidable costs of the eurozone's recession rather than a failure to rein in spending. In an encouraging sign for Paris, the commission's document noted that much of France's deficit overshoot is attributable to the recession. France is expected by the commission to grow by 0.1 per cent over 2013, when it previously expected growth of 0.4 per cent.

However, some prominent German voices yesterday called for a harder line to be adopted by the commission on deficits, particularly with regard to France. Jorg Asmussen, a German representative on the European Central Bank board, told Reuters that Francois Hollande's administration in Paris needed to do more to bring its spending into line with its revenues. "It's a matter of credibility that France takes appropriate steps as quickly as possible to correct this missing target", he said. Michael Fuchs, a senior member of German's Christian Democrats, referred to France as the eurozone's "problem child".

The Spanish government of Mariano Rajoy has pushed through a host of labour market reforms in the past 12 months, but Madrid's deficit in 2012 still came in 10.2 per cent thanks to a deep recession which has pushed unemployment up to 25 per cent. The Spanish economy contracted by 1.4 per cent in 2012 and is set to shrink by a similar amount this year, according to the commission.

Portugal, which has received a bailout from its eurozone neighbours, is seen as contracting by 1.9 per cent, following a 3.2 per cent shrinkage in 2012. France is expected to eke out its predicted 0.1 per cent growth following a flat 2012.

The commission's forecasts are bleakest for Greece, whose economy is seen shrinking for a sixth successive year in 2013.

It is expected to contract by 4.4 per cent, before finally managing a 0.6 per cent expansion in 2014. Greek un- employment is predicted to peak this year at 27 per cent.

Voices
voices
News
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
newsBumping fists rather than shaking hands could reduce the spread of infectious diseases, it is claimed
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
newsHad asteroid hit earlier or later in history, the creatures might have survived, say scientists
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Training/Learning and Development Coordinator -London

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Training/Learning and Development Co...

Training Programme Manager (Learning and Development)-London

£28000 - £32000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manage...

Application Support Analyst / Junior SQL Server DBA

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established professional services...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried