Germany's EU payments must be cut, says Kohl

Bonn (Reuters) - The German Chancellor Helmut Kohl said in an interview released yesterday that Germany's payments to the European Union were too high and should be reduced.

"The current payment level from Germany is too high, that's undisputed. And we must work to bring down this sum." Mr Kohl said in the interview with ZDF television recorded at his Austrian holiday home.

Asked if he would be able to push through a reduction in payments with Germany's EU partners, Mr Kohl said: "We must try, I'm not alone. But I've been able to push through many things."

The size of Germany's contributions to the EU has leapt to the top of the political agenda over the past few months, with senior figures in all major parties complaining that Bonn can not afford to pay the lion's share of the EU budget.

Finance minister Theo Waigel said earlier this month that Germany, following unification with its former Communist east, was no longer wealthy enough to pay so much.

Mr Kohl said that Brussels must recognise the efforts of all EU states to make savings in their own budget and also appeared to hint it was time to cut down on money spent on EU bureaucracy. "I'm also not of the opinion that the Brussels apparatus can stay as it is now, in its dimensions." he said. Germany, by far the largest contributor to EU coffers, will pay around 82 billion ecus (about pounds 55bn) this year.

The issue of EU financing is due to be discussed by 1999, when a new formula will have to be worked out to take account of planned enlargement to include new members.