A NEW crackdown on EU countries failing to run their economies efficiently was described by the European Commission as "the most comprehensive reinforcement of economic governance since the launch of Economic and Monetary Union".
A package of Commission proposals to reinforce existing debt and deficit rules includes the right of the Commission to issue automatic fines against member states.
The plan does not extend to member states not in the eurozone, but eurosceptics say applying the new rules to the UK will only be a matter of time.
The Commission proposals - which need approval from EU finance ministers - acknowledge that current rules have not worked, with many EU countries way outside their agreed commitments to keep national deficits to below 3% of GDP, and debt within 60% of GDP.
The Commission says it now has the backing of many EU governments who have accepted that the recent economic crisis requires tougher measures, not least in the wake of the Greek economic downturn which threatened the very existence of the euro.