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03/12/2016

Juncker reprimands Oettinger over French deficit editorial

Euro & Finance

Juncker reprimands Oettinger over French deficit editorial

Günther Oettinger has been reprimanded for his comments on the French budget. [Götz A. Primke/Flickr httpbit.ly1tox9Bw]

The President of the European Commission has reprimanded the German Commissioner, Günther Oettinger, in front of the College of Commissioners. EurActiv France reports

Günther Oettinger’s editorial on the French budget deficit, published on 20 November in Les Echos, was not received well in France. One high-level French diplomat described it as “unfortunate,” and added that they were pleased to hear that the German Commissioner had been “called to order by the Commission President”.

In a statement with a thinly veiled double meaning, Commission spokesperson Mina Andreeva told journalists that the President of the Commission was not “a teacher that should be giving lessons to politicians, who are responsible people”.

Reproach from the President

According to a source within the Commission, President Juncker had addressed this same scathing comment to the College of Commissioners earlier this week, by way of reprimanding the German Commissioner. The source told EurActiv that “the President wanted to convey the message that this was not what he needed”.

>> Read: French Socialists call for Oettinger to resign

In his editorial, seen by many as a diatribe against France, the Commissioner said France was a “repeat offender” that required a firm hand.  Our French source said “it was his branding of the country as a repeat offender that went down particularly badly”. The Secretary General of the French Socialist party, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, responded angrily to the text, even going so far as to say that Commissioner Oettinger’s unchecked outburst constituted “a resigning matter”.

Commissioner Oettinger’s cabinet declined EurActiv’s request for a comment.

The German Commissioner’s editorial failed to have the desired effect, as the Commission announced its plan to delay the opening of the disciplinary procedure against France for its excessive deficit.

>> Read: Commission delays French deficit procedure

Oettinger’s views on the situation of the French budget came as no surprise to many, including our French source, who told EurActiv that “Gunther Oettinger had already shown himself to be a very German Commissioner while he was Commissioner for Energy”. 

Background

The excessive deficit procedure is laid out in article 126 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union. This article obliges the member states to avoid excessive deficits in national budgets.

The Commission evaluates the data and the Council decides what constitutes an excessive deficit. The Commission puts together a report, taking into account all the factors (economic conditions, reforms, etc.) that may be relevant for deciding whether the deficit is excessive.

If the Council decides that a member state has an excessive deficit, it begins by making appropriate recommendations. The state concerned then has a precise timescale in which to bring the situation under control. If the state does not conform to the recommendations, the Council gives them formal notice to take deficit reduction measures. If required, the Council is able to hand out sanctions or fines, or to invite the European Investment Bank to review its lending policy regarding the state concerned.

A deficit is considered excessive if it is above 3% of GDP. A 1997 Council regulation clarifies and accelerates the excessive deficit procedure.