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Italy must wait to see if reform efforts impact budget goals: minister

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Italy will have to wait to judge whether planned structural reforms will affect its ability to meet strict European Union budget limits, Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan said on Monday. Speaking after a meeting of euro zone finance ministers in Brussels, Padoan said that it was generally accepted that structural reform measures, which took time to bear fruit, could have a temporary impact on public finances.

EU allows cultivation of new US genetically modified corn

EU ministers allowed the controversial cultivation of a new genetically modified crop, US firm Pioneer's TC1507 corn, after opponents failed Tuesday to muster enough support against the move. A meeting of European Affairs ministers could not establish a majority either way, Greek chairman Evangelos Venizelos said. Accordingly, TC1507 was allowed through, after Venizelos asked for legal advice. The rules require that "if the Council (of member states) does not take a decision, then the measure has to be adopted by the European Commission," a legal adviser said.

Auditors open way for fresh aid for Greece

Creditors concluded a technical audit of reforms in Greece on Monday, opening the way for payment of 8.1 billion euros in fresh aid if finance ministers approve the audit report, officials said. The European Commission also said that Greece looked to be on track to return to growth next year. European Commission spokesman Simon O'Connor said on twitter: "Troika conclude Greece review mission with staff-level agreement. Now for Eurogroup to discuss."

Eurogroup chief urges crisis-hit Portugal to 'take responsibility'

Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem on Wednesday called on Portugal to take responsibility amid a political crisis that threatened to bring down the government. "The situation is worrying. So I'm calling on Portugal to take responsibility," Dijsselbloem, who is also finance minister of the Netherlands, told the Dutch parliament. "I imagine that the situation will stabilise and that the Portuguese government will remain committed to pursuing the programme" of reforms it is implementing in return for crucially needed bailout funds.

EU officials 'targeted' in US spying programme

The European Union was one of the "targets" of Washington's huge Internet spy programme, with bugs hidden in EU offices in Brussels and the United States, German weekly Der Spiegel said in an edition to be published Sunday. The magazine said the claims were based on confidential documents it was partly able to consult through US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, who this month revealed the existence of the so-called PRISM programme operated by the US National Security Agency (NSA).

No new haircut for Cyprus depositors

The 23-billion-euro bailout for Cyprus does not mean that savers will be hit by a new "haircut" on deposits, the government spokesman said on Friday. "The European Commission's assessment ... raising the financing needs of Cyprus from 17.5 billion to 23.5 billion ... in no way indicates that a de facto new recapitalisation will be imposed on banks or any extra charges to depositors," Christos Stylianides told reporters. He said the extra 6 billion euros estimated by the European Commission puts no additional pressure on the eastern Mediterrranean island's economy.

Eurogroup statement on Cyprus

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Following is the text of the Eurogroup's statement on Cyprus following a meeting of euro zone finance ministers in Dublin on Friday. "The Eurogroup welcomes the staff-level agreement that has been reached between Cyprus and the Troika institutions on the policy conditionality underlying the macroeconomic adjustment programme. The agreement is fully in line with the parameters and key objectives set by the Eurogroup on March 25.

De Guindos rules out contagion but calls for "conclusive" accord

Brussels, Mar 24 (EFE).- Spain's economy and competitiveness minister, Luis de Guindos, on the weekend ruled out the possibility that the Cyprus financial crisis could result in wider contagion among European economies but he also warned of the risk if the Eurogroup does not forge a "conclusive" agreement on Sunday to resolve the island nation's economic troubles.

URGENT ¥¥¥ Eurogroup chair calls Cyprus meeting for 1700 GMT Sunday

Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem announced that eurozone finance ministers will assemble in Brussels from 1700 GMT on Sunday, aiming to nail down a bailout for Cyprus and get the island's banks back open. "Eurogroup tomorrow 6pm will be in Brussels," the Dutch finance minister, who chairs the group's meetings, said on Twitter of face-to-face talks scheduled after a week of repeated conference calls over the crisis in Cyprus. rt/jhb

Cypriot parliament to debate levy only after Eurogroup meeting - official

NICOSIA (Reuters) - The Cypriot parliament will not debate a possible levy on bank deposits until after finance ministers of the 17-nation euro zone meet on Sunday, a senior lawmaker said on Saturday. "We will meet after the Eurogroup meeting. I don't know when," the lawmaker, who declined to be named, told Reuters. (Reporting by Michele Kambas; Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Pravin Char)
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