European Union authorities have used their increased financial oversight of national governments for the first time, recommending that Spain be fined almost 19 million euros ($21 million) for manipulating economic statistics.

The European Commission, the EU's executive branch, has won new powers in recent years to monitor the finances of European governments. Much of the blame for the continent's recent debt crisis was placed on misreported and unreliable government accounting.

The Commission said Thursday its investigation found that the Spanish regional government of Valencia was "seriously negligent" in recording health expenditure, leading to Spain's "incorrect reporting" of its national deficit data in 2012.

It said Spain cooperated with the investigation and that the deficit numbers were corrected later in 2012.

The sanction must be approved by EU leaders.