Saturday

28th May 2016

US sees ECB chief as 'Mr Euro'

The US Treasury has lobbied the European Central Bank (ECB) more than any other EU body on the eruo crisis, a new study shows.

The analysis - in a blog by Brussels-based think tank Breugel - looked at official contacts in the diary of US treasury chief Tim Geithner from January 2010 to June 2012.

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  • When the US treasury wants to get things moving, it calls Frankfurt or Berlin, rather than Brussels or London (Photo: wikipedia)

It noted that he had 114 meetings or phone calls with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), many of which probably concerned the euro crisis. But he had 168 contacts with EU institutions or finance ministries "indicative of the direct involvement of the US administration in European policy discussions."

He spoke with ECB leaders Jean-Claude Trichet and his successor Mario Draghi 58 times. He also contacted the German finance minister on 36 occasion, the French finance ministry 32 times and the British finance ministry 19 times.

By contrast, he spoke to the European Commission, the EU Council President, the euro-using countries' club, the Eurogroup, and its President Jean-Claude Juncker less than 20 times in total.

"There is little doubt that for the US Treasury, 'Mr Euro' is first and foremost the ECB president ... Clearly, the one European institution that really counts is the ECB," Breugel's Jean Pisani-Ferry said.

The data also indicates that the US sees national EU capitals as wielding more power than the European Commission and that it thinks Germany and France have a bigger voice in EU affairs than the UK.

"In spite of the complex governance arrangements in place, other European institutions matter much less than Berlin and Paris," Pisani-Ferry added.

Meanwhile, the spikes in Geithner's diplomacy give an idea of which events worried the US the most over the past 30 months.

The number of contacts shot up ahead of the first Greek bailout in May 2010. They went up again in the run-up to the Irish bailout in November 2010.

They peaked overall in May and December last year amid talk of a second Greek bailout, a Portuguese bailout and the creation of permanent EU rescue funds.

Things calmed down in Spring this year. But Geithner's activity jumped up again in June as EU leaders mooted a banking union as their latest response to the euro-area's ongoing problems.

"The data suggest a constant and very active involvement of the Obama administration in the search for solutions to the euro-crisis," Pisani-Ferry noted, referring to US leader Barack Obama.

Finance ministers baulk at tax-avoidance rules

Member states will discuss again in June a proposed directive to outlaw practices used by large companies to avoid paying taxes. Meanwhile, the European Parliament makes progress on its probe of Panama Papers.

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