Higher spending to counter economic slowdown has widened budget deficits of most EU countries in the past year, official data showed Wednesday. At the same time, tax revenues decreased.

The collective deficit of the 27-nation European Union grew to 2.3% of GDP from 0.8%, reflecting a gap of 5.5% in the UK.

The budget deficit for the euro area rose to 1.9% of GDP in 2008, compared with 0.6% in the previous year, with Ireland recording the highest deficit.

Figures released by the Eurostat showed that many Eurozone countries exceeded the bloc's deficit ceiling of 3% of GDP. This is expected prompt the European Commission to take disciplinary action against countries like France, Greece, Spain and Ireland.

The Commission had earlier forecast the euro area budget deficit to expand to 4% of GDP in 2009 and to 4.4% in 2010 as governments of its member countries spent billions of euros to address the slowdown.

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