Euro map

European Union finance ministers on Wednesday sealed a deal to reform the 27-nation bloc’s fiscal rules after France and Germany finally adhered to a compromise.

EU countries had been negotiating for months on a reform of the bloc’s fiscal rules limiting debt and deficits for member states, known as the Stability and Growth Pact.

The rulebook, which has often proved difficult to enforce and has served as a source of tension, was suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic but should be reactivated next year.

“Once this agreement is formalized into a general approach, which should happen very soon, negotiations can begin with the European Parliament so that EU member states have clarity and predictability on their fiscal policies for the years ahead,” said Valdis Dombrovskis, a European Commission executive vice president.

The deal was announced a day after France and Germany reached an agreement on the compromise put forward by Spain, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.

The two economic powerhouses had long remained at odds on how to support investment when budget deficits exceed the limits set by the EU.

“(A) historic agreement,” France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire wrote on X. “After two years of intense negotiations, we have new European budget rules!”

Key targets from the old Stability and Growth Pact will remain. Under current rules, countries must aim to keep their government deficit below 3% of gross domestic product, and their public debt below 60% of GDP.

The central pillar of the overhaul, laid out by the European Commission, will see member countries get more independence in the design of plans outlining their fiscal targets, measures they might use to address any imbalances and the main reforms and investment they aim to undertake.

The Spanish presidency said the compromise includes extra safeguards to guarantee debt reduction. Countries with debt ratios above 90% will need to cut debt by one percentage point per year. For member states with debt ratios between 60% and 90%, the reduction required will be 0.5% per year.

“The rules provide for a transitional regime until 2027 that softens the impact of the increase in the interest burden, protecting investment capacity,” the Spanish presidency said.

Earlier this month, thousands of protesters marched in Brussels to protest what they perceive as new austerity measures the reform would bring.