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EU welcomes Spain’s budget cap move

BRUSSELS, Aug 30 – The European Commission applauded Spain on Tuesday for moving towards enshrining a budget deficit cap in its constitution and called on other governments to follow suit.

“We think it’s a positive move,” Amadeu Altafaj, spokesman for EU economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn, told a news briefing.

“It underlines the commitment of Spanish authorities to guarantee the long-term sustainability of its public accounts,” Altafaj said, adding that Madrid’s initiative would help “reinforce confidence” in the troubled eurozone.

Spanish lawmakers voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to launch an urgent debate on the hotly protested reform. The 319-17 vote seemed to all but guarantee it will get the three-fifths minimum support required to change the constitution.

“Our position is that the principle of balanced budgets is a cornerstone of the Stability and Growth Pact,” Altafaj said.

Most EU states have exceeded the pact’s rules, which require them to keep their deficits under 3.0 percent of gross domestic product. Governments across Europe, including Spain, have launched austerity measures to slash deficits.

Spain is the first country to react to a call made by France and Germany on August 16 for eurozone states to adopt a “golden rule” for their budgets from 2012 in order to prevent more debt crises in the future.

Berlin wrote such a deficit rule into its constitution in 2009. Italy and France have draft legislation in the works.

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