Germany's Schaeuble defends delaying France deficit target
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble speaks to journalists at the informal meeting of Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) ministers at Dublin Castle in Dublin, Ireland, on April 12, 2013. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has defended the European Commission's decision to give France two more years to meet the EU deficit target of three percent.
In an interview with the daily Bild to appear in Sunday's edition, Schaeuble noted the European Union's growth and stability pact "allows a certain flexibility in applying the rules."
He added however that "the Commission and the (German) government are in complete agreement that there must not be any relaxing of (economic) reforms."
The Commission offered France extra time after its spring forecasts painted a pessimistic picture of the French economy over the next two years, with its deficit notably rising sharply from 3.9 percent of GDP this year to 4.2 percent next year.
For its part France on Saturday said even with a two-year extension it would not relax efforts to reduce public debt.
"There is no question of easing the effort to reduce spending," Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici told AFP.
In Berlin, however, some members of Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition were not in favour of Brussels' decision.
"It is a bad sign. I don't see that France is engaged in reforms. Giving more time (to France) is the same as saying, continue like that," Michael Stuebgen, head of European issues in the conservative parliamentary group, told the German weekly Focus.
Another critic, German Economy Minister Philipp Roesler, called European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso "irresponsible" in his handling of Europe's budgetary policy.
"It's irresponsible when a European Commission president puts in question the policy of budgetary consolidation in the EU countries," said Roesler.
In order to fight the debt crisis, "we must boost growth, and consolidate the budgets. We have to make cuts," Roesler said, adding that Germany has set "a good example... We don't spend more, but less."
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