Austria to miss EU deficit targets in 2016, 2017 -think tank

VIENNA, May 27 (Reuters) - Austria may "significantly" miss budget deficit targets set by the European Union this year and in 2017, the country's Fiscal Council, an independent body, said on Friday.

Austria's Finance Minister Hans Joerg Schelling asked for exemptions for its spending on migrants from Brussels, which demands European countries keep their structural budget deficit, excluding one-offs, smaller than 0.5 percent.

Austria stripped out 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in spending related to migrants from its structural budget for 2015 and plans to do the same this year, but Schelling has said the EU would not allow him to do the same in 2017.

"For the years 2016 and 2017 there is a possibility that the target of keeping within EU-side fiscal rules could be missed significantly," the Fiscal Council said in a statement, adding an early warning from Brussels could come in the spring of 2017.

"Even if temporary higher spending due to the refugee migration gets counted as an exceptional burden... this does not change the result," it said.

The think-tank predicted Austria's structural deficit would reach 1.5 percent this year and 1.6 percent next year.

Austria, a country of 8.7 million in which 90,000 asylum claims were made last year, had a structural surplus of 0.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015, after stripping out the additional migrant costs.

The Austrian finance ministry predicts a structural deficit - a measure that strips off business cycle effects and one-offs - of 0.5 percent in 2016 and 2017 respectively, although the 2017 figure would only be reached by utilizing a certain financial leeway in accordance with the European Stability Pact.

($1 = 0.8946 euros) (Reporting By Shadia Nasralla; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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