BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany should, if possible, return to a balanced budget from 2022, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday, adding this would require discipline after Europe’s biggest economy took on record new borrowing during the COVID-19 crisis.

Merkel and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz have introduced a range of rescue and stimulus measures to help the German economy recover as quickly as possible from the coronavirus shock.

The government has already taken on record high borrowing of some 218 billion euros this year, and envisages net new debt of 96.2 billion euros in 2021 to finance further measures to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

Speaking at an industry event, conservative Merkel also rejected proposals from her Social Democrat labour minister to give people the right to work from home, saying the plans would not be passed in their current form in this legislative period.

Minister Hubertus Heil said on Monday that his draft law would give employees the right to work from home or somewhere else at least 24 days per year if the occupation and work flows allow.

He has said the aim was to increase job satisfaction among employees and avoid home working, which has increased during the pandemic, automatically leading to longer working hours.

“There is a lot to discuss with this draft – to put it mildly,” Merkel said.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Paul Carrel)

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