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Wednesday, 30 April 2014 | MYT 4:10 PM

Dutch PM threatened in 2012 to quit euro zone over reform contracts - newspaper

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte threatened in 2012 to take his country out of the euro zone if Brussels pushed forward with plans to impose "reform contracts" on member states, according to the daily De Volkskrant, citing several sources.

In 2012, European leaders were presented with draft proposals suggesting member states sign commitments "of a contractual nature" concerning the kinds of reforms they would implement to safeguard the stability of the euro zone.

The proposals would have gone beyond existing obligations, such as the Maastricht criteria obliging countries to aim for a budget deficit of less than 3 percent, by imposing a tailor-made legislative agenda on member states, obliging them to enact specific economic reforms.

The idea was unpopular with national leaders and was never implemented.

European Council President Herman van Rompuy told the paper he was shocked at how broadly unpopular the plans were.

"The Netherlands was against the contracts, but not only the Netherlands: I was astonished at the scale of the opposition," he said.

The newspaper said Rutte made his threat at a meeting with van Rompuy at Rutte's official residence in The Hague.

"I never felt afterwards that the threat was actually a threat," van Rompuy said, adding that no other European leader had threatened at any moment to quit the euro zone.

"It was more a strong statement about the contracts which I would have to take very seriously indeed."

Long an enthusiastically pro-European country, the mood in the Netherlands toward Brussels has cooled in recent years, partly as a result of the cost to Dutch taxpayers of bailing out southern euro zone countries including Greece.

Eurosceptic parties are set to do well in elections for the European Parliament next month.

Last month, Klaas Knot, the head of the Dutch central bank, told public television the bank had drawn up contingency plans for a possible collapse of the euro zone at the height of the euro zone crisis in 2012.

(Reporting By Thomas Escritt; Editing by Hugh Lawson)


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