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EURO CRISIS

Rajoy: Merkel not in charge of austerity policy

European leaders will be called to summit to find ways to foster growth

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Thursday rushed to the defense of his conservative German counterpart Angela Merkel for her insistence on austerity, saying that the policy is a collective European position.

“Austerity policy is not Angela Merkel’s own policy — it is a policy of the euro zone and of the EU in which we have all agreed to voluntarily,” the prime minister said after meeting with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. “They are asking Spaniards to make a lot of sacrifices, but this is what we have to do in order to grow and create employment.”

His comments came after some European leaders, including Merkel, joined calls for a pact to stimulate growth. On Wednesday, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi urged European countries to come up with a “growth compact.”

Meanwhile, the European Council president, Herman Van Rompuy, announced on Thursday that he will call together all the leaders of the continent to a special informal summit designed to adopt measures to foster growth. “Europe needs structured economic growth and we need to achieve this, but reforms take a long time,” Van Rompuy said in Brussels.

The summit is due to be held on June 28-29.

Separately, it has emerged that the troubled region of Catalonia has been unable to cap spending despite austerity cutbacks.

Despite some 1.5 billion euros in cuts, the Catalan regional government has been unable to control runaway spending.

In the first two months of this year, the Catalan CiU nationalist bloc government of Artur Mas spent some 3.19 billion euros — a 21.8-percent increase in spending from the same period last year.

Health costs were the biggest factor for expenditure increases. Even after the Mas government’s unpopular cuts in services, medical spending rose 58.8 percent.

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