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German fine over export success 'unthinkable': Commissioner

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(BERLIN) - EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said Tuesday he believed it was "unthinkable" that European Union scrutiny of his native Germany's high trade surplus would lead to a fine.

"In the framework of this inquiry, I consider a fine or the setting of a ceiling to be unthinkable," he told a forum of German employers.

He added: "I assume that the Commission will adopt a constructive line" in its procedure, launched last week to scrutinise countries for failing to meet EU economic targets.

The Commission said Germany's runaway export success may harm a fragile EU economic recovery and does little to cut soaring unemployment.

Europe's top economy is seen as overly reliant on exports for growth at the expense of increasing domestic demand which would benefit its eurozone and EU partners more.

As well as Germany, the Commission found that 15 other member states had "imbalances" on a range of indicators from debt to trade.

The investigation is due to be completed next year and Berlin, in theory, could face a fine of several billion euros.

Leading economic figures in Germany have hit back at growing criticism of the country's high trade surplus, saying the onus is on EU partners to make their economies more competitive.

But Italian Emma Marcegaglia, president of European employers' federation, Business Europe, defended Germany's role as a European economic leader.

Her country, she said, needs a Germany that "remains a benchmark..., remains in a strong position".

"Please, don't destroy what you have done," she said at the same forum, directing her comment at both employers and Germany's two biggest political parties currently locked in negotiations to form a grand coalition.

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