[FRANKFURT] France wants to delay a target for bringing its budget deficit below 3 per cent of GDP by three years until 2018, German business daily Handelsblatt reported on Monday, in an advance copy of its Tuesday edition.
The French government has requested a three-year extension to the 2015 deadline as it wants to keep the debate over unpopular austerity measures and structural reforms out of the 2017 presidential election campaign, the paper said, citing EU Commission sources.
European Union finance ministers in 2013 gave France a two-year extension until 2015 to bring its deficit below the EU ceiling of 3 per cent of GDP.
But Paris has repeatedly said it only expects to achieve that target by 2017.
The Finance Ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the Handelsblatt story. A source in President Francois Hollande's office said it did not comment on rumours.
The commission will decide on its response to France's request in the first week of March, Handelsblatt said, adding that German EU Commissioner Guenther Oettinger was watching the decision with some concern. "The Stability Pact's credibility is being put to the test," Handelsblatt quoted Oettinger as saying.