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26th Jan 2020

Non-euro countries fight for a place at the decision-making table

A group of non-euro member states led by Poland is a fighting a rearguard action not to be left out in the cold as single currency member states consider going ahead with a eurozone economic government.

Europe ministers from Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania met in Brussels on Monday (12 September) morning to discuss how best to influence the debate on the future of the 17-nation euro area.

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All seven states are obliged under the terms of their accession treaties to join the single currency but they have little means of making their views heard, being excluded from the increasingly frequent meetings on euro governance.

Warsaw wants "European governance that is coherent in the sense that we do not create two different clubs within Europe," said Poland Prime Minister Donald Tusk following a meeting with EU council president Herman Van Rompuy in Brussels.

Polish Europe minister Mikolaj Dowgielewicz, also in the EU capital, said: "I don’t think that you can restrict talk on the future of the euro to the eurozone countries. It is a matter of concern and priority for the whole of the European Union."

He said he thought the meetings would "continue" adding: "Look at the bright side of life, call it the friends of euro and don’t have dark thought about why we are meeting".

Dowgielewicz also indicated that the seven countries will lay out a series of proposals on economic governance before a general meeting of EU leaders in October.

The spectre of a two-speed Europe, with a core of more closely integrated eurozone states started to take shape in August when France and Germany proposed regular meetings of eurozone leaders and a separate euro president, likely to be Van Rompuy.

In addition, Van Rompuy is working on economic governance proposals which he is to unveil next month.

He said they would concentrate on four issues: improving efficacy of working methods and communication; strengthening institutions; fiscal discipline; and fiscal integration.

He was not particularly welcoming of the club of seven’s activities. "If non-euro members want to make observations, ask for additional information or make fundamental remarks, the European Council will be the place to do so," he said.

New treaty unwelcome

The Polish prime minister dismissed the idea of working on a new treaty to incorporate new economic governance rules as a distraction.

"I am aware of the fact that the treaty is no longer a taboo subject but I would be extremely hesitant in engaging European leaders and European institutions in that debate today", said Tusk. "We need very strong decisions now and any discussion concerning the treaty could possibly lead to less coherence among the positions of the member states".

Germany, in particular, has been pushing to re-open the treaty in order to enshrine sanctions for budget sinners into EU law.

Recently European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso also suggested it might be an option, although most member states look on the prospect with a jaundiced eye after the decade-long negotiations to produce the current, just-in-force, Lisbon Treaty.

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