BRUSSELS (Reuters) – EU countries must take urgent action to offset the effects of aging populations on public finances and should aim to balance their budgets, European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said. «Doing nothing is not an option. Policy action is urgently needed,» Almunia said at a conference on demographics yesterday. «We need a three-pronged strategy – to reduce debt at a fast pace, raise employment rates and productivity and reform pension and health and long-term care systems,» Almunia said. European Union countries need to do more than just comply with an EU ceiling for budget deficits of 3 percent of gross domestic product, he said. He said the sustainability of public finances was at high risk in the long term in the Czech Republic, Greece, Cyprus, Hungary, Portugal and Slovenia.