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Major Dutch party backs euro exit

 FILE - In this Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012 file photo, Dutch populist politician Geert Wilders poses for a photograph following an interview in The Hagu...
 FILE - In this Friday, March 2, 2012 file photo, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte smiles after an EU Summit in Brussels. Dutch populist politician Gee...

Netherlands Guilder

FILE - In this Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012 file photo, Dutch populist politician Geert Wilders poses for a photograph following an interview in The Hagu...

Netherlands Guilder

FILE - In this Friday, March 2, 2012 file photo, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte smiles after an EU Summit in Brussels. Dutch populist politician Gee...

Dutch populist politician Geert Wilders on Monday called for the Netherlands to abandon the euro and reintroduce the guilder, hours after meeting with the prime minister to discuss painful spending cuts needed to comply with European budget rules.
Wilders, the head of the Freedom Party which is the country's third-largest, is mostly known for his anti-immigrant stances, but he is also a longtime skeptic of European projects. He has opposed any aid for Greece during Europe's debt crisis, saying the Greeks should return to the drachma; and he was a prominent figure in the Netherlands' rejection of the European constitution in 2005.
Via his Twitter account, Wilders said his party "wants the guilder back!" He is holding a press conference later Monday in which he is expected to call for a referendum on ditching the euro _ though that idea is not likely to win political support in the short run.
A majority of Dutch voters say they want to remain in the single currency, though most regret joining it. Enthusiasm has waned as the country's economy has weakened in recent months. The government's statistics agency announced last week the country is now in recession.
Wilders enlisted the aid of British research firm Lombard Street to argue that the costs of membership in the euro are greater than the benefits. That runs counter to most economic analysis, which says the small, export-focused Dutch economy has been one of the greatest beneficiaries of the euro.
Earlier Monday, Wilders met with Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the start of negotiations to reduce the country's deficit. A government forecast last week said it will run at 4.5 percent of GDP this year, greater than the 3 percent allowed under European rules, and greater than the 2.7 percent the Cabinet initially forecast, due to the economic slowdown.
"We'll have to suffer pain, all three parties and the Netherlands will have to suffer pain for these talks to be a success," Wilders said at a nationally televised press conference. He said if the negotiations yielded a "fair" combination of cuts and policy goals palatable to Freedom voters, they would succeed, "and if not, then not."
Rutte's minority government relies on Freedom for outside support to reach a majority on most issues, and a break with Freedom would mean the fall of the government and new national elections, not currently scheduled until 2014.
A failure to meet the budget goals would be deeply humiliating for the Dutch government, which backed Germany as the most forceful advocates of the European treaty signed last week mandating punishments for any government that runs a deficit of more than 3 percent.
European President Herman van Rompuy has said that the cuts required of the Netherlands are "actually not so large."
"I wouldn't over-dramatize the situation," he said on Dutch television program Buitenhof on Sunday.
However, prominent economists and the government's own forecasting agency have warned the Cabinet against overly aggressive cuts, saying there is a large chance they will worsen the economy and worsen the deficit.
Wilders wants cuts in the country's spending on culture and foreign aid, which would mostly be symbolic, given their size. To achieve the 3 percent target, the country will likely have to cut spending on health care and pensions.