Maersk Line container ships at North port terminal in Bremerhaven
The European Commission on Wednesday placed Germany under scrutiny for its international trade surplus, seen as an obstacle to recovery across the rest Europe.
"The issue is whether Germany ? could do more to help rebalance
the European economy," Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said after placing 15 other countries under scrutiny for failing to meet EU economic targets.
Barroso was speaking as the Commission also ordered "decisive policy action" from deficit-struggler France, Italy and Hungary.
Between now and May, the Commission using new powers is to scrutinise the economic programmes of the 16 countries to ensure that they are in line with overall coherent economic management of the eurozone and European Union economies.
The head of the EU executive said the focus also had to include countries with surpluses considered excessive, after years of concentrated efforts to organise bailouts and drive down public deficits.
"This is not about the EU running economies in place of national governments," Barroso said.
It is about "ensuring that what is good for individual states is good also for the EU," he stressed, opening a new phase of what he called "bolder" cross-border economic policy-making.
"Let's be clear on this, we are not criticising Germany's ... success in global markets," added EU Economic Affairs and Euro Commissioner Olli Rehn.
He said data had shown that "Germans are constantly investing a large part of their savings abroad," and asked "whether this is deficient even from a German perspective."
Low-tax, banking-rich Luxembourg's economy and new EU entrant Croatia, suffering from unemployment on a par with debt crisis-battered Greece and Spain, were other new additions to the list of countries placed under close EU monitoring.
As well as the "persistent concerns" over France, Italy and Hungary's performance in areas ranging from debt to pensions planning, Brussels is eager to see progress in two countries already identified as labouring under "excessive" imbalances last year.
Spain, which is nearing completion of its banking bailout, and Slovenia, still the subject of fears it will need a eurozone financial rescue, can expect concrete answers in the spring.