BRUSSELS, April 21 (Reuters) - Spain and Portugal had bigger than expected budget deficits last year, badly missing targets set by European Union finance ministers, the European Union statistics office’s data showed on Thursday.
The data is likely to add to pressure on the two countries from the European Commission and EU finance ministers to step up deficit reduction efforts this year.
Spain had a deficit of 5.1 percent of gross domestic product in 2015, Eurostat said. Although the gap decreased from 5.9 percent in 2014, it was still above forecasts and well above the 4.2 percent target set by EU ministers.
In February, the European Commission forecast Spain would cut the deficit to 4.8 percent in 2015.
Portugal’s deficit was 4.4 percent in 2015, Eurostat said, a significant drop from the 7.2 shortfall in 2014. But Lisbon was supposed to have cut the gap to 2.5 percent last year and exit the EU disciplinary procedure for countries running deficits above 3 percent.
The outcome is also worse than the Commission’s prediction from February when the EU executive arm forecast a 4.2 percent gap for Portugal in 2015.
The Commission, which monitors EU countries’ budgets, will issue in May its assessment of budgetary plans for the next three years of all EU members and decide whether to step up the disciplinary procedure against those who miss targets. (Editing By Jan Strupczewski)