EU commissioner says wary of 'eurosceptic' Germany

27th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

The EU budget commissioner praised Germany Thursday as an "island of stability" in the current debt turmoil but said he was worried by growing euroscepticism in the bloc's top economic power.

"In the crisis, Germany is an island of stability and does not need to do a lot of budget cutting" compared to other countries, Janusz Lewandowski told reporters during a visit to Berlin.

But he said he was concerned the mood in Germany was turning against EU integration, speaking ahead of talks with Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and meetings at Angela Merkel's chancellery on the EU budget for 2014-2020.

"I would like to see to what extent public opinion has changed in terms of European goals," he told the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

"The Germans have apparently become more eurosceptic, they think that they have to pay for the mistakes and the high life of other EU citizens," for example with a trillion-dollar rescue package approved this month for debt-stricken states.

The Polish commissioner said he had the impression that Berlin does not want to continue its "chequebook diplomacy."

But Germany, as the top EU exporter, must be aware it is in its interest to invest in southern, central and eastern Europe -- the continent's poorer regions, he said.

The visit comes amid tension between Berlin and Brussels after European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso this week called Germany "naive" in pushing for custom-tailored changes to EU treaties and said its government had failed to do enough to restore confidence in the euro.

Speaking to reporters, Lewandowski said he was confident of reaching an accord on the upcoming EU budget but said the negotiations would be "extremely difficult in light of the current situation" with Europe's finances.

He said he opposed a new European tax to relieve EU finances, saying it would be counterproductive in the crisis.

But he said the EU could assume certain tasks from member nations, for example in the areas of research or foreign policy, to offer some relief to national budgets.

Germany's budget deficit this year is set to be double the maximum permitted by the EU's fiscal rules, rising to as much as six percent of gross domestic product from 3.3 percent in 2009.

But Berlin has changed its constitution to require it to slash its deficit from 2011 to a limit of 0.35 percent of GDP by 2016, almost one tenth of the limit in the EU's stability pact.

© 2010 AFP

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