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Spain to drop below EU's 3% deficit limit in 2018: minister

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Madrid (AFP)

Spain's finance minister pledged Friday that the deficit would fall to 2.2 percent of GDP in 2018, which would finally see the country adhere to EU rules after years of failed attempts.

Cristobal Montoro told reporters the government planned to "go below three percent (limit set by the EU) to 2.2 percent" in 2018.

Already under EU scrutiny, Spain must reduce its deficit to 4.6 percent of its GDP this year, and 3.1 percent in 2017.

Montoro acknowledged this was a tough ask.

"To reduce it to 3.1 is without a doubt a big effort," he said, adding this would involve an adjustment of around 16 billion euros ($17 billion).

Economy Minister Luis de Guindos, meanwhile, broached the sensitive subject of unemployment, which the conservative government has pledged to reduce after years of economic crisis.

While significantly better now compared to 2013 when unemployment came close to 27 percent, it is still the second worst performer in the European Union after Greece.

De Guindos predicted the jobless queue would come in at 19.6 percent this year, and fall thereafter to reach 12.8 percent in 2019.

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