September 11, 2015 / 3:36 PM / 4 years ago

EU states must keep budgets in check despite migration crisis: official

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - A senior EU economics official warned European governments on Friday not to break strict budget rules as they face Europe’s worst migration crisis in decades and seek to deal with the costs of sheltering refugees.

Since the beginning of the year about 500,000 migrants have reached the European Union, escaping war and misery in their home countries. Most of them landed in Greece, Hungary and Italy.

As EU finance ministers gathered on Friday in Luxembourg for a regular monthly meeting, EU Economics Commissioner Pierre Moscovici told reporters that some EU states plan to ask for more leeway in budget rules to cope with the crisis.

Moscovici mentioned Austria, Italy, Ireland and Luxembourg as the countries most likely to raise this issue.

“We will examine that in the framework of our rules because we must also stick to the commitments,” he said, referring to the strict controls on national budgets imposed after the region’s recent debt crisis.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker proposed on Wednesday a plan to relocate a total of 160,000 asylum seekers across EU countries and estimated a cost on the EU budget of 780 million euros ($880 million) over two years. EU states are supposed to contribute with national resources, too.

The 17 countries sharing the euro are required to deliver their draft budgets to the Commission for 2016 by Oct. 15.

The European Commission has the power 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.

The aim of the rules is to raise a red flag before it is too late and prevent a repeat of the turmoil of the past, which began because countries were living far beyond their means.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio, editing by Robin Emmott

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