Brussels set to take Germany to task

  • 2003-11-20
  • By Elahe Merel, AFP
BRUSSELS - The EU's executive commission battled with Germany this week, taking the country to task for its failure to adhere to euro zone public deficit limits.

European Commissioner for Economic Affairs Pedro Solbes tabled a new recommendation on German budget practices at a meeting with his collegues in Strasbourg.
Germany has been in trouble with the European commission because its deficit is on course to breach the European Union's Stability and Growth Pact in 2004 for the third year running.
The pact, which France has also violated, requires the 12 countries linked by the euro to hold their annual public deficits to less than 3 percent of gross domestic product.
"Berlin did not satisfy an initial recommendation from its partners, who asked it to bring its deficit under the ceiling of 3 percent of GDP in the pact, and so a new recommendation is needed," Solbes spoksman Gerassimos Thomas said.
Without revealing in advance exactly what the proposal would consist of, Thomas said Brussels would give Germany and France "equal treatment."
France has already won a new reprieve from Brussels that pushes back the prospect of hefty fines as long as Paris mounts a major effort in 2004 to bring its deficit below 3 percent in 2005.
EU finance ministers are due to consider the commission's recommendations for both countries at their next gathering on Nov. 24 - 25 in Brussels.
While France is in favor of a compromise, promising further cost-cutting measures, Germany has rejected the legitimacy of a formal demand from the commission, which could give the panel the right to review Germany's budget.
"A toughening of the procedure would be misplaced given Germany's cooperation" with the EU, German Finance Minister Hans Eichel said in a column published Nov. 15 in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, dropping a much more conciliatory tone he has had with Brussels.
In the Nov. 17 edition of The Financial Times, he rejected a "purely mechanical" application of EU budget rules and called for a legal interpretation of the pact under which a state that cooperated with the commission to improve its finances would not be threatened with sanctions.
However, Solbes said in an interview published Nov. 16 he did not share Eichel's view.
"There's no legal basis for this distinction between cooperative and uncooperative countries," he told the French business newspaper La Tribune.