Rebuke likely for Greece

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Greece may this month become the first EU country to be formally told it has taken «no effective action» to prevent its budget deficit from busting the bloc’s limits, a European Commission source said yesterday. The source, who requested anonymity, said the Commission would meet on Nov. 24 to consider whether to recommend that member states declare Athens’s efforts insufficient. Fines are the ultimate sanction on member states that fail to stick by the rules, but the pact has lost some of its teeth since France and Germany avoided such a penalty last year. A Commission spokesman, Gerassimos Thomas, said the executive would indeed examine the budgetary situation of Greece and six new member states this month, but he cautioned it was not yet clear what the outcome would be. «It could be that they make that kind of recommendation (no effective action) but it has not been decided,» he said. The European Commission has already said Greece’s 2005 budget, which aims to bring its deficit below the EU cap of 3 percent of gross domestic product, is based on optimistic growth assumptions. Greece is trying its best to placate its eurozone partners and has reaffirmed its aim of bringing its budget deficit below the EU limit next year, squeezing it down to 2.8 percent of GDP from an estimated 5.3 this year. Greek media reported on Thursday that Greek Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis had met with his Dutch counterpart Gerrit Zalm and asked that Greece’s deficit discussion be postponed until December’s meeting of EU finance ministers.