Under the watchful eye of the European executive, loosening up EU budget discipline rules is on the agenda for the 12 euro zone finance ministers. The Wednesday evening meeting in Brussels is preparation for an agreement on revamping the stability and growth pact at the March 22 EU summit. The Commission has softened its resistance but rejects certain spending exclusions from the calculation of deficits. Top monetary official Joaquin Almunia:
“The Commission is against any exclusion of a single public expenditure category in the calculation of the 3% reference value. And the Luxembourg presidency has repeated — and I agree with him (Jean-Claude Juncker), with them — that he is also against the exclusion of a single public expenditure category.” France has wanted to separate out military expenditure and Germany its contribution to the EU budget. A parliament specialist said the ministers will go all-out for a deal, to avoid the leaders ‘haggling at the summit’. Central bankers and the IMF are still warning against tinkering with the pact.