The assessment of compliance with the Pact is a continuous process throughout the year. For Spain, as the country is currently subject to the Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP), today's reminder takes the form of an Autonomous Commission Recommendation (ACR). ACRs are a regular tool introduced in the Two-Pack regulation as an early alert to euro area Member States in the corrective arm. They are meant to come at a time in the Semester process when measures can be taken to ensure a timely correction of their excessive deficit. The Commission also notified Belgium, Croatia, Finland, Italy and Romania of its concerns regarding those countries' compliance with their fiscal obligations.
Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, responsible for the Euro and Social Dialogue, said: "We have identified six countries whose budgetary strategies may entail risks to respecting their commitments under the Stability and Growth Pact. There is still time to take necessary measures and this is why we are sending an early warning signal today. We are ready to engage in a constructive dialogue with those countries in order to minimise such risks."
Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, responsible for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: "Today's steps reflect an updated assessment of the budgetary outlook in a number of countries following the Commission's Winter Economic Forecast. We have now done everything we can to alert national authorities to compliance risks. It is now up to them to take this input on board when they submit their medium-term fiscal plans in April."
The Commission previously adopted Autonomous Commission Recommendations for France and Slovenia following the Commission Winter Forecast 2014. As a result, these countries took specific policy actions, which were taken into account when the Commission prepared the 2014 country-specific recommendations for these Member States.
As part of the Semester cycle, further Commission proposals for Council recommendations to Member States on fiscal matters may be adopted in spring. This will allow taking into account the information Member States provide in their national reform programmes and their stability or convergence programmes, including any follow-up to today's package. The recommendations will also be based on the Commission Spring forecast which will incorporate final 2015 budgetary data validated by Eurostat.
Following the 8 March 2016 Communication on the 2016 European Semester, the Commission will engage with governments, national parliaments, social partners and other stakeholders.
In March and April, the Commission will also hold further bilateral meetings with the Member States. These meetings will provide an opportunity to discuss the country reports with the national authorities.
In April, Member States are expected to present their national reform programmes and their stability programmes (for euro area countries) or convergence programmes (for non-euro area countries), including any follow-up to the winter package.
On this basis, the Commission will present in spring its proposals for a new set of country-specific recommendations, targeting the key challenges to be addressed. The recommendations will also include fiscal guidance, which will be based on the Commission Spring Forecast which will incorporate final 2015 budgetary data validated by Eurostat.