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Dutch government to rein in austerity in break from EU policy
The Dutch government is to postpone some austerity measures, in a significant break away from EU policy that risks angering Germany.

Liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte told journalists after a cabinet meeting that the move is intended to stimulate growth in the traditionally pro-austerity nation.

"This is a deal that will contribute to re-establishing trust in our economy," he said, before adding that the priority nevertheless remained "putting government accounts in order".

The move is likely to anger Angel Merkel, who has hailed austerity measures as the solution to a financial crisis that left the fate of the euro hanging in the balance. Bailouts for Greece, Ireland, Portugal and now Cyprus have all been agreed in return for massive cuts in the respective countries despite deep recessions and high unemployment.

Last month the Netherlands announced it would slash its 2014 budget by a further €4.3bn to respect a 3pc of GDP European Union deficit limit.

Centre-right premier Mr Rutte said the situation will would be re-evaluated in September to decide if the austerity measures should in fact be implemented, in part or in whole.

He justified the decision by saying that the economy had shown a slight improvement, notably in terms of exports.

"When we finalise the 2014 budget [in September], the government will evaluate whether the economic growth... will be sufficient not to apply these extra [austerity] measures," the government said in a statement.

Mr Rutte's announcement follows an agreement with social partners, including unions, concluded late on Thursday night.

That deal, which must still be approved by parliament, includes postponing a planned reduction in the amount and duration of unemployment benefits until 2016.

According to official figures used by the government for its budget and published before March 1, the deficit will be 3.3pc of GDP in 2013, and 3.4pc in 2014.

The deficit stood at 4.1pc in 2012.

The Netherlands is one of just four eurozone countries still to have a triple-A rating from the three major agencies.

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