France ready to talk about EU budget oversight: Lagarde

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France is ready to debate an EU proposal to allow Brussels to examine government budgets before they go to national parliaments, Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said Wednesday.

Lagarde told parliament it would be "useful" to exchange documents and reassured French lawmakers that "we are ready to pursue this debate with you".

The European Union on Wednesday set out plans to vet member state budgets before parliaments do, provoking a strong reaction from Sweden which said only deficit-busting countries should come under such oversight.

The idea is part of a package of measures to create a new pan-European governance aimed at taming the growing mountain of state debt which threatens the eurozone's financial stability.

Lagarde told lawmakers that she had spoken by phone with EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn "to know exactly what was the nature of his proposal."

"There is no question of examining all of the major budget items in each of the countries but rather giving some indication of the fundamental thrust and the balance," she said.

Lagarde did not specifically say that she supported the idea but government spokesman Luc Chatel earlier expressed reservations, saying "it's up to parliament to adopt the national budget."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week called for stronger monitoring of the budget rules that govern the 16-nation eurozone.

© 2010 AFP

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