March 1, 2015 / 4:37 PM / 4 years ago

Merkel's Bavarian allies criticize EU's exception for French deficit

German Chancellor and head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Angela Merkel (R) talks with Gerda Hasselfeldt, the chairwoman of the Bundestag group of Christian Social Union parliamentarians, before a CDU/CSU faction meeting in Berlin, February 18, 2014. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

BERLIN (Reuters) - A leading member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative allies in Bavaria has criticized the European Commission’s decision to give France two extra years to cut its deficit, a letter seen by Reuters shows.

On Wednesday Brussels said it would give France until 2017 to bring its deficit below the EU limit of 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), sparing Paris a fine and giving it a new grace period after it missed a second deadline to put its finances in order.

The decision has been condemned by some euro zone policymakers, who said it undermines the credibility of EU budget rules which were tightened in recent years to prevent overspending and a future sovereign debt crisis.

Gerda Hasselfeldt, head of the Christian Social Union (CSU) parliamentary group, wrote to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in a letter dated Feb. 27 to say that the timing of Brussels’ decision left a “bad aftertaste”.

Hasselfeldt wrote: “Right now, at a time when we’re facing big challenges in our responsibility for the European Union and the euro zone and when we’re working on the principle of solidarity in return for solidity, it’s extremely important not to allow any exceptions.”

She said the euro zone was vehemently urging Athens to stick to rules set by the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers despite significant domestic resistance, and that while she did not want to compare Greece with France, “stringent action” was the only way to ensure Europe and the euro zone remain credible.

“We should not create the dangerous impression that we want to apply double standards,” Hasselfeldt said, adding that the same rules needed to apply to all countries whatever their size.

Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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