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FACING AUSTERITY: European countries are realizing how difficult it will be to adhere to the strict rules against overspending that they have chosen as their key policy response to the two-year old debt crisis.

THE DETAILS: European Union finance ministers agreed Tuesday to sanction Hungary over its high deficits, but agreed to reconsider the ruling in June. That followed a decision by the finance chiefs of the 17-country eurozone Monday night to give Spain some leeway on cutting this year's deficit.

THE BACKGROUND: At issue is not only a deepening recession in many economies _ which critics say makes budget cuts counterproductive _ but also the difficulty countries have in punishing a fellow sovereign state.