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Finance

ECB warns against watering down stability pact

The ECB has criticized government leaders for contemplating changing the criteria for measuring EU member states' public deficits. It has said the bloc's Stability Pact must not be diluted in any way.

European Central Bank Executive Board member Jörg Asmussen on Friday criticized EU leaders for toying with the idea of altering the bloc's public deficit measuring criteria. At their summit in Brussels, government leaders had agreed to look into ways of ignoring countries' investment volumes when defining deficit levels.

"One should not tinker with the current rules of the Stability Pact," Asmussen told Reuters news agency. He said it was alarming that time and again a new debate was launched about what to cross out from the equation.

"First it's investments that are not to count, and then it's probably spending on education or defense that will no longer appear in deficit calculations," Asmussen commented.

Pushing on with reforms

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted the financial stability in the bloc would not be watered down. The ECB emphasized there was no room for complacency following initial signs of more robust financial markets.

"The situation is still fragile in many ways," ECB Vice-President Vitor Constancio told reporters in Frankfurt during a presenation of the central bank's latest Financial Stability Review.

Constancio cited as main risks eurozone nations' possible lackluster reform endeavors, a deterioration of lenders' health and additonal funding strains, with debt markets still not functioning properly.

hg/kms (dpa, Reuters)