Belfast Telegraph

EU 'flexible' over spending cuts

The European Commission has offered Ireland some flexibility over the 15 billion euro four-year spending cuts target, it has been claimed.

Fine Gael said EU Commissioner Olli Rehn confirmed the massive multibillion figure was not cast in stone and could come down if the economy grows faster than predicted.

But the party's finance spokesman Michael Noonan said the top EU politician warned next month's six billion euro slash-and-burn budget was non-negotiable.

"Significantly, Commissioner Rehn has agreed with Fine Gael that the Government's own 15 billion euro figure for the four year adjustment could change," Mr Noonan said.

"And he stated that the scale of the fiscal adjustment would be reviewed every year."

On the final leg of his two-day trip to Dublin, Mr Rehn held separate meetings with Opposition parties, employers and trade union leaders.

He also addressed the Institute of International and European Affairs where he predicted Ireland would pull itself out of the crisis.

"It might feel a small consolation at times like these, but I have no doubt that Ireland too will overcome this crisis," Mr Rehn said.

"You are smart and stubborn people. Time and again you have proved you can overcome adversity.

"And this time you do not face the challenges alone. Europe stands by you."

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