Austria skeptical about euro zone budget idea: finance ministry

Austria dislikes the idea of creating a separate budget for euro zone countries before it is clear what such a plan aims to achieve, the finance ministry said on Monday.

The single budget proposal was first sketched out by Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, in a paper circulated in September as part of efforts to stimulate debate about how Europe's monetary union should be improved.

"The finance ministry takes a skeptical view of a central budget. Before talking about a central budget one would have to decide which areas one wants to mutualise at all," a ministry spokeswoman said in an emailed response to a question about Austria's stance on the proposal.

"Speaking about a budget without knowing what for will certainly not lead to the desired results."

Diplomats say debate about the idea is intensifying in the run-up to an European Union summit this month and there is less opposition to the proposal than many officials initially expected.

The Financial Times Deutschland (FTD) reported that diplomats discussing the possibility of the budget are considering a sum of around 20 billion euros ($26 billion).

Germany strongly supports the idea as a way of coordinating transfers among member states, and France is also in favor.

(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Anthony Barker)