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updated: 2/4/2013 9:48 AM

EU says rescue program for Spain's banks on track

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Associated Press

BRUSSELS -- The rescue program for Spain's banks is on track, according to a review by EU authorities, but the country faces significant economic challenges, including high unemployment and a shrinking economy.

Spain last year agreed to a rescue of its banking sector, which took huge losses on the real estate market's collapse in 2008. Spain's 16 fellow member states in the eurozone have given it a (euro) 100 billion ($136 billion) credit line to help the banks. Madrid has so far drawn (euro) 39.5 billion and promised broad reforms of the financial sector.

Monday's review by the European Commission and the European Central Bank concludes that banking sector conditions "have broadly stabilized" since the start of the program in June.

Access to credit markets has also improved, both for the government and for the private sector.

"The successful conclusion of the second review mission to Spain shows that the repair and reform of the Spanish financial sector is proceeding apace," said Olli Rehn, the European Union's monetary affairs commissioner.

Despite the economic problems, the review says Spain needs to make progress toward balancing its budget.

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