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Barroso says EU should boost stimulus if it can

  The European Union should spend more on stimulating the economy if it can, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Wednesday, but he stressed that carrying out already agreed measures was key.

Barroso made the comments on the eve of a two-day EU leaders meeting to discuss ways of getting the economy going again as well as preventing economic crises in the future. “What we need now is not words, but action. We need implementation of the recovery plan,” he said, adding: “If member states are in a position to do more, they should do more.”

The United States, which is spending some 5.5% of its gross domestic product to prop up demand, has called for more fiscal stimulus from Europe, which is spending between 3.3% and 4% of its GDP to cushion the effects of the crisis. But the 27-nation EU has said that before it commits to any more spending, it wants to see the effects of outlays agreed on last December. Much of that money has not yet been spent.

Pressure to cough up more cash has been focused on Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, which has entered the crisis with a balanced budget thanks to fiscal tightening in recent years. It is therefore seen as having more room to move than most other large euro zone economies, which are close to or already above the EU’s budget deficit limit of 3% of GDP.

But Germany has said it is already spending 4% of GDP on stimulus and does not want its deficit to balloon because others had failed to restore their finances in better times. Draft conclusions of the EU summit have shown the bloc’s leaders will make no new spending pledges this week.

Barroso noted that under the European social model, EU spending related to the crisis would rise anyway this year and next through outlays on unemployment and other welfare benefits.

“We are doing more than anyone in the world on that matter,” Barroso told a news conference. “Others should increase their effort in that way as well -- that would be a good contribution for the global recovery,” he said in reference to the US and Asian economies. (Reuters)