That's a deficit limit of 3 percent of GDP, and five EU states will make the budgetary bad books this year by breaching that level, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg since January.
These five — the U.K., France, Spain, Greece, and Croatia — include three of Europe's five largest economies. Three more countries — Finland, Poland, and Romania — are seen posting deficits at the threshold.
The EU dictates that governments must narrow budget deficits to within 3 percent of GDP and reduce debt to 60 percent of GDP, or face fines (though none have ever been applied despite consistent breaches). Since the Stability and Growth Pact came about in 1998 to strengthen the monitoring of budgets, 25 of the EU's 28 members have overstepped the deficit limit. Sweden, Estonia and Luxembourg are the only countries that have avoided breaching it.