Friday

23rd Jun 2017

Commission lays out vision to complete euro

  • The EU executive is proposing a two-phase calendar to complete the architecture of the economic and monetary union. (Photo: Hannelore Foerster)

The European Commission presented on Wednesday (31 May) its proposal to "move forward" on eurozone integration with a treasury, a finance minister and several instruments to make the financial sector less vulnerable to crises.

The document, which is part of an ongoing reflection about the future of the EU, aims to "fill the gaps" in the single currency and to help the eurozone economies to converge.

  • "Status quo is not an option," said finance commissioner Pierre Moscivici (r) (Photo: European Commission)

"We cannot and should not wait for another crisis," said commission vice president Valdis Dombrovskis, who admitted that "doubts remain about the full stability and safety of the system".

He said that the Commission was putting forward a "balanced approach", where "solidarity and responsibility, risk-reduction and risk-sharing go hand in hand".

The EU executive is proposing a two-phase calendar.

First, it calls on member states to complete the banking union and the market capital union before the end of 2019. Then, until 2025, the "architecture" of the economic and monetary union should be completed with a series of "more far-reaching measures".

In the first phase, the Commissions says that the measures already agreed or implemented should be topped up with a financial backstop: the Single Resolution Fund and a European deposit insurance scheme.

The fund would be able to rescue a failing bank, while the scheme would protect people’s savings.

'Historical opportunity'

At the same time the "democratic accountability and effectiveness" of the eurozone governance should be improved, with an increased role for the European Parliament, but no specific eurozone parliament.

After anti-EU forces were kept from power in the Dutch and French elections, just months after Brexit shook the foundations of the bloc, the EU has an "historical opportunity" to "move forward", said finance commissioner Pierre Moscovici.

"Status quo is not an option," he said, while putting on the table propositions to increase EU oversight on economic policies.

The EU executive says that integrating parts of the EU treaty on stability, coordination, and governance in the economic and monetary union, the so-called fiscal compact, in EU law "could be a necessary step" as soon as next year.

The fiscal compact was agreed in 2012, at the height of the financial crisis, in order to "foster budgetary discipline" through more coordination and supervision of national policies.

In the second phase, before 2025, the Commission proposes to create an "EU finance minister" in charge of a eurozone treasury.

The "minister" would combine the functions of euro commissioner and permanent president of the Eurogroup. The treasury would carry out the "economic and fiscal surveillance" of member states.

The Eurogroup itself, which is currently an informal gathering of the eurozone finance ministers, would become an official ministerial council and would be granted "decision-making competences".

Debt mutualisation

At the same time, the Commission lays out a series of measures to reduce risks in the financial sectors, in particular the link between the banking sector and national sovereign debts.

The most controversial ones could be the propositions to create a so-called "safe asset" to issue bonds in common and to change regulation for sovereign bonds so that banks are encouraged to diversify their holdings.

Although the proposal does not amount to creating eurobonds, a system that would put EU countries' debt in common, it could raise eyebrows in countries like Germany, which categorically rejects eurobonds.

The Commission admits that "the question of debt mutualisation is heavily debated" and that the idea "raises a number of complex legal, political and institutional questions".

It also said that member states would need to discuss the idea of a European monetary fund or of a “rainy day fund" to help absorb economic shocks.

"There is almost everything, but in vague terms, for an indefinite future, and subject to conditions," Daniel Gros, from the Centre for European Policies Studies, a think tank in Brussels, told EUobserver.

He pointed out that the Commission makes "no clear choice" on how to reduce risks for the financial sector when it comes to sovereign debts, or to let the public sector issue securitised bonds.

"It is so vague that it is difficult to say whether it is big or not," he said, adding that "the timeline is not important" since the proposals would have to be detailed before being discussed, not to mention adopted.

Gros said one likely reason why the proposals were so vague was that there were disagreements inside the Commission.

"We are making propositions for the future," Moscovici said, as a way to admit that member states will likely be reluctant to endorse all the Commissions's ideas.

But he warned that "we can't have a two-speed Europe, nor a two-speed euro".

"A two-speed euro has serious consequences," he said: “the increase of political differences and the rise of extremism."

Macron and Merkel to 'reconstruct' the EU

The French and German leaders will present a common proposal to deepen and strengthen the EU and the eurozone. They say they are ready to change the EU treaties.

Eurozone bank needs more scrutiny, says NGO

Transparency International says eurozone's central bank is not subject to "appropriate democratic scrutiny" and should have no say on EU bailout projects.

Row between EU ministers halts e-book tax rate

A bill to reduce VAT rates on e-books and e-publications has become the latest victim of a row between the Czech Republic and its partners over its own plan to collect VAT.

Focus

EU and China move to fill US void

At a summit in Brussels, EU and Chinese leaders will attempt to deepen ties on trade and climate as US president Trump plans to pull out of the Paris climate deal.

Italy reaches EU deal on failing bank

After months of negotiations, the European Commission and Italy agreed on the terms of rescue for Monte dei Paschi di Siena bank, including job cuts, salary caps and private sector involvement in the bailout.

News in Brief

  1. Juncker has 'no' clear idea of kind of Brexit UK wants
  2. Belgian PM calls May's proposal on EU citizens 'vague'
  3. UK lacks support of EU countries in UN vote
  4. Spain to command anti-smuggler Mediterranean force
  5. Estonia confirms opposition to Nord Stream 2 pipeline
  6. Ireland and Denmark outside EU military plan
  7. EU leaders renew vows to uphold Paris climate deal
  8. US issues warrant for VW managers, German media say

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  2. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  3. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  4. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  5. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  6. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  7. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  8. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  10. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  11. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move
  12. European Social Services ConferenceDriving innovation in the social sector – 26-28 June

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformMuslims Have Unique Responsibility to Fight Terror: Opinon From Fethullah Gülen
  2. EUSEW17Check out This Useful Infographic on How to Stay Sustainable and Energy Efficient.
  3. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Criticises the Juncker Plan's Implementation
  4. The Idealist QuarterlyDoes Europe Really Still Need Feminism? After-Work Chat on 22 June
  5. EUSEW17Create an Energy Day Event Before the End of June. Join the Call for Clean Energy
  6. UNICEF1 in 5 Children in Rich Countries Lives in Relative Income Poverty, 1 in 8 Faces Food Insecurity
  7. International Partnership for Human Rights26 NGOs Call on Interpol Not to Intervene Versus Azerbaijani Human Rights Defenders
  8. Malta EU 2017Significant Boost in Financing for SMEs and Entrepreneurs Under New Agreement
  9. World VisionYoung People Rise up as EU Signs Consensus for Development at EU Development Days
  10. ILGA-EuropeLGBTI Activists and Businesses Fighting Inequality Together
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Prime Ministers Respond to Trump on Paris Agreement
  12. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceNutrition and Heart Disease: Time to Raise Our Standards