Merkel 'proud' of budget, insists on rigour in EU
German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced pride on Wednesday in her country's strong budget and called on EU states "finally" to respect joint fiscal rules, as France delayed meeting a key EU target.
Merkel told lawmakers in the Bundestag lower house of parliament that Germany could be "proud" after balancing its 2015 federal budget for the first time for 45 years.
After striving for years to achieve it, she said it was "now reality", adding: "Economic activity financed on credit is set to finally end."
The Bundestag is due to vote on the draft budget for next year on Friday.
Merkel said that what applied for Germany also held true for Europe, where she said the situation was still fragile but noted that reforms in countries such as Spain were bearing fruit.
"We should take very seriously that the (European) Commission has now rightly indicated that straying from the reform course is the biggest risk for further recovery," she told MPs.
And she reiterated comments by Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, saying "keeping to our incurred commitments in Europe, especially in the eurozone, must, unlike in the past, finally become the hallmark of the eurozone".
Earlier French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said Paris would not get its ballooning budget deficit down to the EU limit of three percent of gross domestic product until 2017.
Paris had promised Brussels that it would return to three percent next year.
Asked about the news, a German finance ministry spokeswoman said it was up to the European Commission -- the EU's executive arm -- to decide how to react, including what punitive measures to take.
But she underlined that Germany believed that all members of the eurozone "must respect the rules" including the three-percent ceiling.
"Otherwise we risk our credibility, and dependability and stability are essential for confidence in the eurozone," she told reporters.
"At the same time, it is important for France to implement the structural reforms that it has announced and step up investment."
Merkel's spokesman told the same news conference that he declined to comment on former French finance minister Pierre Moscovici being named as the EU commissioner for economic affairs.
"Regardless of the nomination of individual people, the strengthening of competitiveness, growth and employment will remain of key importance for Europe in the coming months and years," he said.
© 2014 AFP