French minister says Portugal should be spared from EU sanctions

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin has said today (July 11) that “Portugal does not deserve to be punished with sanctions” for having failed to meet its deficit targets for 2015.

“Portugal has made monstrous efforts in these last years. It does not deserve excessive discipline,” Sapin told journalists during a press conference in Paris before leaving for an ECOFIN meeting in Brussels.

“One cannot say Portugal hasn’t made all the appropriate efforts,” he added.

According to the minister, Portugal’s inability to meet its deficit targets was due to its “obligation to bailout a bank (Banif) in December”.

As Reuters explains today, “the European Commission began formal disciplinary procedures against Portugal and Spain last week over excessive deficits in 2014 and 2015, and EU finance ministers will make a decision based on the executive’s recommendation at a meeting on Tuesday”.

The international news agency adds that “EU budget penalties have never yet been enforced and it is unclear whether they will be imposed this time. France itself has repeatedly benefited from EU leniency over its own breaches of the bloc’s public finances rules”.

For now, the support of France is a good sign that Portugal may be spared from the sanctions.

Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa has said many times that the sanctions would be “unfair” and “unjustified” and denied that the government is working on a plan B if the sanction process does move forward (click here).

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