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EU May Debate Easing Deficit-Cut Targets at Summit, Almunia Says

Feb. 29 (Bloomberg) -- European Union leaders may discuss relaxing budget-deficit targets to take into account slowing economic growth at a summit this week, European Union Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said.

“There is an in-depth debate: is it logical to maintain targets as if nothing had happened?” Almunia told reporters in Madrid today. “That is a political discussion that may start tomorrow in the European Council and I think it is better to have this discussion with as much data as possible on the table.”

European leaders are set to sign an agreement on tightening budget rules on the final day of a summit starting tomorrow in Brussels. Almunia, a Spaniard and the EU’s former economy commissioner, said no decision can be taken regarding Spain yet as the commission hasn’t yet received the information it needs.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said today Spain won’t rush to rein in the euro area’s fourth-biggest shortfall. The nation is pushing for the EU to review stability programs to take into account recession forecasts. The country missed its 2011 target for a deficit of 6 percent of gross domestic product.

Spain will continue to reduce its budget deficit as much as it can, Rajoy said in an e-mailed statement. The cuts will be “as much as possible, continuously and without rushing,” Rajoy said.

Economy Minister Luis de Guindos will explain Spain’s budget policy to euro-area finance ministers before the summit tomorrow, said a spokeswoman for the ministry, who declined to be named in line with government policy.

De Guindos will seek to convince EU leaders by outlining the steps the government, in power since December, plans this year to meet its budget commitments, she said.

Rajoy’s government will present its growth forecast and spending plan for 2012 on March 2.

“I trust that this budget will be fully in line with the Stability and Growth Pact rules,” European Commission President Jose Barroso told reporters in Brussels today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Angeline Benoit in Madrid at abenoit4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Matthew Brockett at mbrockett1@bloomberg.net

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