Sunday

17th Nov 2019

'Silent majority' backs economic government of Europe

  • The tide is turning, says Barroso's top aide (Photo: Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier)

The European Commission believes it is backed by a "silent majority" in favour of its push for further EU integration and potential future role as the economic government of Europe.

According to Johannes Laitenberger, head of cabinet to the European Commission president, the commission has more allies in its bid to re-assume control of the eurozone debt crisis - currently managed in a piecemeal fashion by member states - than is apparent at first sight.

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"The first and best ally that we have in all of this is the silent majority who too often is drowned out by a very vocal minority of sceptics and critics but which is much more solid than we care to think," Laitenberger said Tuesday (4 October) at an event organised by the European Policy Centre.

"I am very confident that there are enough people, enough institutions, enough forces, that can be mobilised. You sense that the tide is turning. Many people who at the beginning of the discussion did not raise their voices are more forceful, more decisive and saying more clearly what needs to be done."

Laitenberger's assessment comes just days after European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso strongly criticised the handling of the eurozone debt crisis by member states, whose foot-dragging eleventh-hour decision making is widely seen as having exascerbated the single currency's woes.

While conceding the seriousness of the eurozone's crisis which has seen three countries bailed out, the German official believes it only serves to underline how important it is to pool decision-making among member states.

"We are used to having the most vigorous, the most controversial, debates on existential questions at the national level. The moment it comes to the European level, there is a little bit the shiver down the spine and we attempt to see it as a fatal flaw if the process here is a little more complex than at the national level.

The strength of the process is that an "agreement" is then reached, he says, noting that if the "intergovernmental" method worked then "we would not have needed to invent the community method."

Expanding on what the commission means by 'economic governance' - a nebulous phrase often defined by the user of the moment - Laitenberger said it implied "different levels of work".

These include ensuring "coherence" between the 17 countries in the eurozone and the ten outside it, with frictions already arising about who should be in the room when wide-ranging decisions are being taken.

The commission also sees as its task to manage the debate between maintaining "stability and responsibility" as well as "growth and solidarity" - this touches on the central debate in northern European states who want more ailing eurozone countries to undertake tough reforms in return for loans.

It is also keen to make use of new tools allowing it more say in correcting macroeconomic imbalances between member states as well as the strengthen rules underpinning the single currency making it easier to punish misbehaving governments.

"All of this has to be brought together into an architecture where the different parts really add up to [support] each another," said Laitenberger in reference to the commission's immediate work agenda.

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