BERLIN (Reuters) - German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told a German newspaper he wanted the euro zone bailout fund - the European Stability Mechanism - to be given responsibility for monitoring euro zone countries' budgets instead of the European Commission.

"The ESM would not judge budget plans in a political way but rather in strict accordance with the rules," Schaeuble told regional newspaper Stuttgarter Zeitung.

He added that he was thinking about whether the ESM "could be gradually developed more in this direction".

EU countries are obliged to keep budget deficits below 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and limit debt to 60 percent of GDP. If a country's deficit is above the ceiling or its large debt is not being cut enough, the Commission and EU finance ministers set it targets and deadlines.

In April EU auditors said the Commission was inconsistent in how it applied fiscal rules requiring EU states to keep budgets under control and criticized the bloc's executive for being too lenient on Italy and France.

(Reporting by Michelle Martin Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)