- - Sunday, April 22, 2012

NETHERLANDS

AMSTERDAM | The Dutch finance minister flew home early Sunday from International Monetary Fund meetings to discuss the future of austerity measures torpedoed by euro-skeptic lawmakers and to reassure ratings agencies that he wants to put his country’s budget back on track.

Jan Kees de Jager arrived home a day after anti-EU lawmaker Geert Wilders walked out of austerity talks with the ruling minority coalition, saying he would not cave in to budget demands from “dictators in Brussels” to bring the Dutch deficit back within the EU limit of 3 percent of GDP.

Mr. de Jager said he still plans to submit a 2013 budget to the European Union by April 30, despite expectations that the Dutch government will resign in coming days and call elections later this year, making it the latest European government forced out of office by the continent’s financial crisis.

Mr. de Jager told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that the AAA-rated Netherlands has a reputation for fiscal prudence and discipline and he wants to keep it that way. Mr. de Jager said he is repeating that message “to everyone, including the ratings bureaus.”

With the failure of the talks, chances of the Dutch deficit falling below 3 percent in 2013 have receded dramatically.

That’s a bitter pill for Mr. de Jager and Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who have been vocal critics of nations that failed to adhere to the 3 percent rule.

The Dutch economy is in recession and the government is expected to run a 4.6 percent deficit this year - better than Spain’s, but worse than Italy’s.

SPAIN

Women visit town to ease bride shortage

CANDELEDA — Country boy, meet city girl.

Inspired by a Hollywood western, a Spanish dating association is trying to slow a population drain from the country’s beleaguered central villages, introducing bachelors to women bused in from the big city of Madrid with hopes of ending a bride shortage.

Candeleda, a town of 6,000 on the banks of the picturesque Lobera River, hosted a weekend fiesta to welcome 68 women for a meet-and-greet with the village’s single men.

Ancient cave paintings show Candeleda has been inhabited for some 5,000 years, and resident Jose Miguel, 67, said he would hate to see its population dwindle after such a long history.

“I’ve checked out the few widows and single women here,” said Mr. Miguel. “I signed up for this to meet new ladies and to hopefully show them the beauty of my town.”

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