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Dutch government under pressure on austerity

Netherlands' Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, center, talks with Spain's Finance Minister Luis de Guindos, left, and Sweden's Finance Minister Anders Borg during a European finance ministers meeting in Luxembourg, Friday, June 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

AMSTERDAM (AP) -- The Dutch government is facing its most difficult challenge yet as it defends a decision to make new spending cuts even as the economy worsens.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, partners in a centrist coalition since November, are in parliament Wednesday to explain to a skeptical Parliament why they plan to cut 6 billion euros ($7.9 billion), around 2.5 percent of the total budget, in 2014.

A previous round of spending cuts and tax hikes this year has helped send the economy into a deeper recession than forecast. With unemployment and bankruptcies on the rise, most voters oppose further cuts. Labor unions say new cuts would jeopardize an accord with employers and the government that has kept strikes to a minimum until now.