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Thursday, 27 June 2019

Germany meets euro debt limit for first time in 17 years

AP , Friday 6 Jul 2018
Horst Seehofer, Olaf Scholz, Angela Merkel
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and German Finance Minister and Vice-Chancellor Olaf Scholz (C) take part in a session on the budget at the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, on July 4, 2018 in Berlin (Photo: AFP)
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The German government says its 2019 budget will comply with eurozone debt limits for the first time in 17 years.

The draft budget also raises defense spending — a contentious issue between Germany and US President Donald Trump.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told a news conference that debt would fall to 58.25 percent of yearly economic output. That would put it below the 60 percent limit established by rules to ensure fiscal responsibility and price stability in the 19 countries that use the euro.

The debt burden has fallen as the economy has grown and the government has run balanced budgets. And eurozone governments have faced very low borrowing costs in recent years thanks to stimulus efforts by the European Central Bank that have included very low interest rates and purchases of government bonds.

But the tight budgets have drawn criticism that the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel has neglected investment needs and skimped on defense spending.

At 1.3 percent of gross domestic product, defense outlays remain far below NATO members' target of 2 percent by 2024.

The defense spending by NATO allies promises to be a contentious issue at an upcoming NATO summit on July 11-12 after Trump again pressed allies to raise their spending commitments.

Germany's defense budget is getting an 11 percent yearly increase, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen was quoted as saying by the newspapers of the Funke media group. She said that "Germany has strong arguments in that regard" ahead of the summit.

The eurozone debt rules have a checkered history since the currency was introduced in 1999. They have been breached by most member governments but enforcement turned out to be weak.

After the 2010-2012 debt crisis the rules were backed up with an intergovernmental treaty limiting deficits.

The draft budget will be taken up by the parliament in the fall.

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