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German finance minister wants EU to have budget veto powers

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German finance minister wants EU to have budget veto powers

Wolfgang Schaeuble - Photo EU Council

(BERLIN) - German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Sunday the European economic and monetary affairs commissioner should have veto powers over national budgets that breach eurozone criteria.

Such a reform would send "a strong signal that we truly honour our commitments", the veteran minister said ahead of a European summit in Brussels next month, in an interview published in news weekly Focus.

The comments come amid tensions between Berlin, which has preached fiscal discipline, and Paris, which is running a budget deficit and urging more stimulus spending.

Schaeuble proposed that the economic and monetary affairs commissioner, a post held by Pierre Moscovici of France, "should get the right to veto budgets that violate the euro stability criteria".

"This does not violate national budget laws. The parliaments of the member states concerned can still decide whether to cut spending, increase taxes or introduce other pro-growth reforms."

He hoped that leaders at the December summit "send the credible message to take this path".

Schaeuble said the eurozone needed to show it is united in the determination to improve its fiscal governance.

"We need to show that we want to jointly proceed toward a fiscal union," he told Focus.

"That means that the eurozone states commit themselves to reducing debt. It must be clear that we want to anchor the euro irrevocably, permanently.

"We have achieved this with the banking union but not yet with the fiscal union."

The timing would be good, given the recent election of a new European Parliament and a new European Commission, he said.

"I would prefer that a European institution enforce the rules," he said, conceding that this would not be easy since it would require treaty changes with the unanimous support of the 28 member countries.

"But we should at least equip the economic and monetary affairs commissioner with the same rights as our competition commissioner," said Schaeuble.

France, grappling with sky-high unemployment and a ballooning budget deficit, has been spearheading a campaign for Germany to soften its stance on fiscal austerity.

France is set for a deficit of 4.3 percent of GDP in 2015, way above the EU ceiling of three percent.

Berlin remains adamant that the only way out of crisis is for eurozone countries to get their finances in order.

Germany's EU Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, an ally of austerity-touting Chancellor Angela Merkel, last week wrote an article in French daily Les Echos and the Financial Times in which he criticised France for breaking the rules and failing to bring in reforms.

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