September 24, 2015 / 12:23 AM / 4 years ago

EU leaders discuss easing budget rigor over migrant crisis, no deal

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders discussed whether to allow euro zone states to run higher deficits to cope with the costs of the migration crisis, EU officials said early on Thursday, but failed to find a common position.

Since the beginning of the year, about 500,000 migrants have reached the European Union, fleeing war and poverty in their home countries.

On Sept. 11, EU finance ministers asked the European Commission, the EU executive, to take into account the impact of this emergency when it will review national budgets in the coming weeks.

The issue was discussed by EU leaders in a meeting on the migration crisis.

“What was discussed and mentioned by several speakers was that the costs made by countries with regards to migrants should be taken into account in the stability pact,” Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann told reporters after the meeting, adding he supported such a measure.

“Countries should have the possibility to have certain exceptions and calculations recognized, but there was no agreement today,” Faymann said.

European economic commissioner Pierre Moscovici, who is in charge of supervising euro zone budgets, agreed to examine the economic impact of the migration crisis and to present his findings on Oct. 5, when euro zone ministers will gather in Luxembourg for a regular meeting.

Euro zone countries are due to submit their draft budgets to Brussels on Oct 15.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was cautious. “We have to check that very carefully and we have to see what the actual costs are,” she told a news conference after the meeting. “I do not have a firm position about it yet,” she added.

Cautious views prevail among EU officials. “It is still very difficult to estimate the impact of the ongoing events on member states’ public finances,” a senior official said.

“At this stage our view is that there is not enough information to conclude that any specific derogation clause of the pact should be triggered as a matter of principle,” the official added.

The European Commission has the authority to send back the draft budgets and push for changes, thanks to the new rules adopted after the euro zone’s 2009-2014 debt crisis.

If the Commission recognizes the existence of “exceptional circumstances”, it can allow member states to run higher deficits, although below the limit of 3 percent of gross domestic product.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio, Andreas Rinke and Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Bernard Orr

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