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EU Finance Ministers Give Greece One Month to Show Financial Progress

  • Lisa Bryant

European Union finance ministers have given Greece a month to show that it can make substantial progress in cutting its staggering budget deficit.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker delivered the message to Greece in technical, but very clear terms. Mr. Juncker, who also chairs a group of EU finance ministers, said the Greek budget deficit crisis is a Greek problem that Athens must solve.

At a press conference in Brussels, where European Union finance ministers were meeting, Mr. Juncker set a mid-March deadline for Athens to show it can bring down its deficit to 8.7 percent of its gross domestic product, or GDP, by year's end, compared to 12.7 percent today.

"As concerns Greece, we have decided the following - to the extent that a number of risks associated to the deficits and debt ceilings, Greece shall announce in the report presented by the 16th of March 2010 measures to ensure the 2010 budgetary target is met," said Jean-Claude Juncker.

Mr. Juncker called on Athens to raise revenues through taxes and duties, and cut spending.

Greece's budget deficit last year was nearly 13 percent of its gross domestic product - more than four times the EU ceiling. Athens has committed to reducing the deficit to less than three percent of GDP by 2012.

If Greece's actions are insufficient, Mr. Juncker warned that the EU would intervene to guarantee the stability of the euro region. Austerity measures by the Greek government have already sparked nationwide strikes.

Experts warn that Greece's economic troubles could threaten other fragile eurozone economies such as Portugal.

EU officials want to know whether Greece used a series of highly complex investments to hide the severity of the country's financial problems.