D'Estaing: eurozone should shut its doors after Poland
Former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing has said the eurozone should stop enlarging after Poland joins in order to create a "hard core" in the EU.
The 87-year-old politician, who also helped draft the EU's defunct constitution, later reborn as the Lisbon Treaty, spoke in an interview in the Polish edition of Newsweek magazine published on Monday (25 March).
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He said: "I think the process of accepting new countries to the eurozone should be frozen. We cannot afford another comedy like the one we have today with Cyprus, which was accepted into the euro-area unnecessarily. But there is an exception to this rule, and this is Poland. You support further European integration and you have an economy based on solid foundations."
He noted that the 27-member EU is going in a different direction to the 17-member eurozone.
"Over the decades, the basis of the EU's existence has changed. We've moved from seeking peace to seeking greatness. The goal is clear: we have to become one of the three main players in the world, so that in 20 years, the US, China and the EU will control the world's three most important currencies: the dollar, the yuan and the euro," he said.
"Poland faces a choice: either to stay in the sluggish Union of 27 countries, or to join the hard core of the EU," he added.
D'Estaing described the 27-level Union as "fragile, unstable and divided."
But he said the 17-member currency club contains countries which "want a well-organised and strong Europe, a budgetary, tax and monetary Union."
He also said the "hard core" should evict countries which do not share this vision.
"If a [euro] country does not want to deepen integration, it should move aside. That's why we should create a mechanism for letting countries leave the euro as quickly as possible. But it would be good if the six founding countries [of the EU] plus Spain, Portugal and Austria stayed in. I will saying nothing about the rest," he noted.
The six founding countries of the EU are Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
"The 27-level EU will also survive, but its competencies should be limited to the [EU's] original areas of work: trade, competition or fisheries … If in 20 years we are faced with the question of Ukrainian membership, let everybody have their say. The EU of 27 can keep enlarging. The eurozone, definitely not," he added.
D'Estaing's ideas go against the EU's current rulebook, which obliges all members to join the single currency when they are ready to in technical terms.
The only exceptions are the UK and Denmark, which negotiated opt-outs on the euro.
His remarks are unlikely to go down well in Latvia, which formally applied to join the eurozone earlier this month.
They are also out of step with public opinion in Poland.
According to a survey by pollster Homo Homini published in Polish daily Rzeczpospolita on Tuesday, 62 percent of Poles do not want the single currency against 32 percent who do.
D'Estaing noted that the euro has an image problem at the moment.
But he predicted things will change after 2015, when Poland holds general elections and when its economic criteria are expected to match euro-entry benchmarks.
"I have a great hope, that when the crisis finally ends, Polish public opinion will support the adoption of the euro," he said.