Frenchman Bruno Le Maire tells Germany not to ‘close the doors’ on EU budget reforms – POLITICO

PARIS — EU capitals should not rule out any options in the ongoing debate over reforming the bloc’s fiscal rules, French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Friday, reacting to new skepticism German on creating more leeway for green investments.

“We shouldn’t close the doors at the start of the discussion, let’s keep all the doors open,” Le Maire said during a live interview with Paris Playbook at POLITICO’s finance summit. “That’s how we will find a compromise.”

The German government is “very skeptical” about the EU’s ability to maintain its fiscal rules while allowing greater flexibility in green investments, a senior adviser to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday, also speaking at the Summit.

Jörg Kukies, whose remit is both the economy and the EU, said Berlin saw these so-called “golden rules” as a potential “Pandora’s box” in which individual countries would gain so much budgetary exemptions that they would make EU budgetary rules unnecessary.

The comments come as EU capitals debate whether to reform the bloc’s rules on public spending, known as the Stability and Growth Pact, in a post-pandemic world. The rules, which cap budget deficits at 3% of economic output and attempt to limit public debt to 60%, have been frozen since spring 2020 but will come back into force in 2023. Highly indebted countries are pushing for more leniency, arguing that they cannot risk underinvesting in the green transition or dragging their economy back into recession.

“We do not always hear the same thing depending on whether we are speaking to this or that interlocutor in Berlin”, notes Le Maire. He added that he had had positive discussions with other members of the German government, including Finance Minister Christian Lindner and Economics and Climate and Economics Minister Robert Habeck.

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