ECB's Asmussen: investments must not be factored out of deficits


Exempting public investment from European Union budget deficit calculations makes no sense, European Central Bank board member Joerg Asmussen told Reuters on Friday, following calls for euro zone countries be given such incentives to reform.

Asmussen, speaking after attending a European Union summit aimed at carving out a Europe after the debt crisis, also said he worried that improved conditions on financial markets would hamper efforts to complete the structures of economic and currency union by taking the pressure off policymakers.

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"It is surprising that the discussion re-emerges every few years about what to exclude from the deficit in the framework of the (Stability and Growth Pact), this time investment. Spending for education and then defense may well soon be next," he told Reuters.

"Differentiating between good and bad deficits makes no sense. Each deficit has to be refinanced on the capital markets. One should not touch the rules of the Stability Pact."

French President Francois Hollande called for financial incentives for euro zone countries to undertake reforms this week and backed an Italian suggestion to loosen the way the EU calculates budget deficits by exempting public investment.

EU leaders included in a joint statement issued at the summit a passage stating that "the possibilities offered by the EU's fiscal framework to balance productive public investment needs with fiscal discipline objectives can be exploited in the preventive arm of the Stability and Growth Pact".

The leaders agreed early on Friday to press on with further steps to tackle the debt crisis but German Chancellor Angela Merkel threw out a proposal to boost risk-sharing with a fund to help euro zone states in trouble.

"The work on (reform efforts) must be continued vigorously," Asmussen said.

He lauded Europe's progress, saying that an agreement on cross-border European banking supervision reached on Thursday and a focus on competitiveness had brought two important results.

"Together with the release of the loan tranche for Greece, Europe has proven its ability to act. Those who 12 months ago painted a dark picture about the future of Europe, have been proven wrong."

(Reporting by Annika Breidthardt, editing by Mike Peacock)