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Veres sees convergence program to be approved

The European Commission will endorse Hungary's mid-term fiscal program next week, highlighting risks and calling for its strict implementation, a draft report from the EU executive obtained by Reuters on Friday, ahead of its publication on Tuesday shows. Hungary's Finance Minister János Veres was also confident. In a brief telephone interview with Reuters on Friday he said that all consultations with the European Commission over Hungary's updated convergence program indicates that it will be approved next Wednesday. "I've had many consultation, including with (European Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin) Almunia and there's also been an informal Ecofin meeting... and all indications are that they will approve it," Veres said. The draft recommends giving Hungary until the end of 2009 -- in line with the government's plans -- to cut its budget deficit to around the EU's ceiling of 3% of GDP. The deficit is expected to stand at 10.1% of GDP this year. "The Hungarian authorities should put an end to the present excessive deficit situation as rapidly as possible and by 2009 at the latest," the draft said. The previous deficit deadline had been 2008. "The Hungarian authorities should adopt and implement swiftly the planned reforms of the public administration, heath care, pension and education systems with a view to containing and reducing expenditure until the end of and beyond the program’s horizon," the draft added. It gave Hungary until April 10, 2007, to demonstrate it was implementing its fiscal program as promised, Reuters reported. Veres added that he expected the commission to say that the fiscal reforms, started this year, must be carried through. (Mti-Eco)