Reuters International

European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic addresses a news conference on European Aviation Strategy at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, December 7, 2015. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir


BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission is likely to delay a decision on whether to suspend European Union funds for Spain and Portugal until after the summer, a vice president of the EU executive said on Wednesday.

Madrid and Lisbon are at risk of EU sanctions for not having sufficiently corrected their excessive deficits last year, in breach of EU fiscal rules. They could be fined up to 0.2 percent of their gross domestic product and have billions of euros in EU structural funding partially suspended.

The Commission will make a proposal on possible financial fines by the end of July, at its last meeting before the summer break, but is likely to delay a decision on any suspension of structural funds until after the summer, a vice president of the Commission, Maros Sefcovic, told a news conference in Brussels.

EU rules compel the Commission to decide on a fine by the beginning of August, but set no specific deadline for a decision on the suspension of structural and investment funds. "Probably we have to deal with that after the summer break," Sefcovic said.

He said the European Parliament, which has the right to request talks with the Commission before any decision on suspensions of EU funds, had requested the delay.

The 2014-2020 EU budget foresees an overall commitment to Spain of 37.4 billion euros in EU funds, and 25.8 billion for Portugal, which on average means that Spain should receive more than 5 billion euros a year, and Portugal about 3.5 billion.

EU fiscal rules dictate a possible suspension of up to 50 percent of next year's funds, but not exceeding the equivalent of 0.5 percent of GDP. But countries can argue for a reduction to take into account unemployment and the general economic situation.

Sefcovic reiterated that the Commission had made no decision yet on fines, and said these could yet be reduce or waived.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Kevin Liffey)


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