June 8 (Reuters) - Following are comments from European Union finance ministers and other officials meeting to discuss the EU debt crisis and budget issues in Luxembourg on Tuesday.
On joining the euro zone next year:
”It is a great day for Estonia, but I want to stress it does not mean big policy changes.
”What we need is the reliability of a bigger currency. It reduces risks for investors.
“The euro is an attractive currency. If we compare exchange rates in the past, the dollar has also moved up and down. And the debt problems in America are not smaller than in Europe in general.”
On risks of inflation:
”We have to admit there’s a risk of inflation that has to be followed closely. But much comes from external factors like fuel, and our internal demand is very balanced.
”At the moment, most of the price convergence has already happened. In the summer, we expect inflation to be less.
”We are counting now the costs of the flood... If it turns out later that amending (the budget) is needed, that it may facilitate helping the victims, then we may consider it.
“Poland’s fiscal situation is strong enough to enable us cope with this challenge, thanks to cautious budgets for 2008, 2009 and for this year.”
SPAIN‘S ECONOMY MINISTER ELENA SALGADO
“We do stand firmly committed to (cut) our deficit, which will be in 2011 6 percent.”
“We shall take any measures necessary to achieve the target.”
“We have presented measures overall ... which we think will allow us to achieve that target.”
OLLI REHN, EU COMMISSIONER FOR ECONOMIC AND MONETARY AFFAIRS
“Spain and Portugal should not always be put in the same basket.”
“I am aware that in Portugal there has been a very substantial reform recently while there is still much work to do especially concerning the labour market and ... reforms.”
“Spain is preparing a substantial labour market reform and also a substantial reform of the banking system. I can only encourage Spain and Portugal to pursue the reforms.”
“Concerning the amendment of the regulation providing audit powers, the final decision requires an opinion by the European Parliament. I assume that will be decided on shortly.”
“Once that is done, the EU can take the final decision on amendment of the regulation and once that is done we will have the audit powers for Eurostat.”
“We have had some concerns as regards the statistical performance of Bulgaria and are considering sending a mission shortly ... which has all these audit powers.”
“We welcome the new targets and new measures announced by Spain. We will come back to this next week. Spain has taken a very substantial decision on fiscal consolidation and is preparing further substantial structural reforms and I welcome the commitment of the Spanish government to do everything needed to meet the new targets.”
On EU economy, Germany:
“The economic recovery is on a stronger footing and will gain stronger momentum towards the end of this year.”
“It makes sense that ... all the member states will start fiscal consolidation at the latest next year, 2011.”
“The German measures of yesterday concern the years 2011 onwards and Germany is expected to meet the target of public sector deficit in 2013.”
“It seems that this programme ... will substantiate the target of meeting the 3 percent deficit target in 2013.”
”(With budget cuts) we are the anchor of fiscal policy in the Euro zone and that is especially important at the current time.
”In this week, we will quickly name the chief executive of the special purpose vehicle.
”The German finance agency ... will execute the treasury activities of the special purpose vehicle.
”The opinion of the German government is that we should not rule out treaty changes to strengthen the (budget) rules.
”There is nervousness in our parliaments and among the people that not enough is being done on financial reform.
“That is why we want to see results.”
“Yesterday was the first time when Greece was not on the agenda of the Eurogroup.”
“The budget is on track. In the first five months of the year, we had a deficit reduction exceeding 40 percent. Structural reforms are advancing. Following the passage of the tax bill we are moving to pass pension reform and the fiscal responsibility bill in June.”
“July is the time when treasury bills come to their end and therefore will be renewed.”
“In June, it will be a visit of the troika -- the IMF, the EU and the ECB. We expect a clean bill of health. They seem to be happy with what we are doing.”
“There is a general sense around the table that everybody needs to undergo fiscal consolidation. We have markets that are not at the moment convinced. We also know there are speculative pressures out there.”
“Both Spain and Portugal presented new measures. They were very well received. The necessary effort is being done.”
On implementing changes to the EU Stability and Growth Pact:
“In July we will hopefully have detailed technical recommendations from the European Commission. That was agreed today. Then based on that result it will be up to (EU President) Herman Van Rompuy to intensify the work over the summer.”
On the publication of stress test results for European banks as recommended by U.S. officials:
“In general we find transparency of stress tests positive but at the moment are not considering it for individual banks but rather the sector overall - that means yes to stress tests, yes to the publication of the general state of things, but I do not see it necessary to put individual banks on display.”
“We spoke of this with (IMF Managing Director) Dominique Strauss-Kahn and different opinions were expressed.”
On international opposition to a financial transaction tax:
“The G20 was a setback - but it was not one for Europe. We still want this and will contribute to advocate it - the sooner the better.”
“We welcome with a lot of satisfaction the arrival of Estonia into the European club (euro zone).”
“I also indicated that France wanted, in parallel with the enlargement caused by the arrival of Estonia, which is to be welcomed and to which France had a positive view, that we must evidently move quickly towards deeper and tougher governance rules.”
“There is market uncertainty due to uncertainty about fiscal policy. The cure must be responsible fiscal policy. The greatest responsibility for that obviously lies with the countries that have contributed most to that uncertainty.”
“So the countries that have contributed most uncertainty should be the ones that are most ambitious when it comes to solving those problems and probably it will be Spain and Portugal.”
“We have always said that a financial transaction tax can be introduced on a European level.”
“We must use sanctions (on budget deficit excesses) at an earlier stage than we have done up until now.”
“I am quite confident that the Hungarian government will take all the measures that they need to. We were informed that the new Hungarian government will take measures that will ensure that the previous plan of achieving a deficit ... of 3.8 percent of GDP this year will be taken this year ... there is no reason for contagion.”
“The Polish economy is in a rather different class, having suffered no recession last year, and having fairly strong growth this year.”
OLLI REHN, EU COMMISSIONER FOR ECONOMIC AND MONETARY AFFAIRS
“Both France and Italy have taken important decisions. We’ll come back to both France and Italy shortly to assess whether they have taken effective action.”