EU president backs Belgium for first-phase entry to EMU


EUROPEAN Commission President, Mr Jacques Santer expects Belgium to be among between seven and nine countries that will qualify to introduce a single currency in 1999.

"I am very confident that Belgium will be part of first group of frontrunners," he said at the week end, citing new figures released by the government.

Belgian finance minister Mr Herman Van Rompuy said last week the government had made substantial progress in cutting the public deficit and expected to qualify for monetary union in two years time.

The European Union has agreed to decide in early 1998 which countries meet strict entrance criteria for the single currency in the areas of debt, deficits and inflation.