Thursday

25th May 2017

Eurogroup chief: 'I'm for secret, dark debates'

  • Juncker: Not a fan of transparency when it comes to economic policy (Photo: Council of European Union)

Eurozone economic policies should only be conducted in "dark secret rooms", to prevent dangerous movements in financial markets, the Eurogroup chief said on Wednesday (20 April), adding that he had often lied in his career to prevent the spread of rumours that could feed speculation.

As exists in the case of monetary policy, all economic decisions should now be discussed behind closed doors, he said

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"Monetary policy is a serious issue. We should discuss this in secret, in the Eurogroup," Jean-Claude Juncker said at a Brussels conference on economic governance organised by the European Movement, an organisation that promotes European integration, referring to matters already long since outsourced from national parliaments to independent central banks.

"The same applies to economic and monetary policies in the Union. If we indicate possible decisions, we are fuelling speculations on the financial markets and we are throwing in misery mainly the people we are trying to safeguard from this."

"I'm ready to be insulted as being insufficiently democratic, but I want to be serious," he said.

Under his line of reasoning, ministers and EU leaders who discuss financial matters in public put "millions of people at risk" due to wild swings in financial markets produced by their public commentary.

"I am for secret, dark debates," he quipped.

"There is insufficient awareness at the European level when it comes to these issues, because each of us wants to show his domestic public that he's the greatest guy under the sky," Juncker noted.

Having served as finance minister and then premier of Luxembourg for the past 22 years, Juncker pointed out that over the course of his career, despite his Catholic upbringing, he often "had to lie" in order not to feed rumours.

A conference-goer suggested that removing the secrecy in EU meetings could prevent markets from moving on rumour and speculations, Juncker said that could not be done because ministers and EU leaders need time to reach decisions.

"Actions on the financial markets are taking place in real time. We don't always agree at each and every debate on monetary policy, but meanwhile markets are reacting."

Juncker also used the occasion to give his endorsement to changes the European Parliament has made to EU economic governance legislation, amendments that tighten the European Commission's role as fiscal-policy policeman, watching over member-state economic decisions.

He said the European Parliament's amendments are "pointing in the right direction" and he was hopeful that an agreement between member states and the EU legislature could be reached before June, so that EU leaders could adopt the final version at a summit mid-June.

However, the Eurogroup chief could not hide his scepticism as to the effectiveness of all such measures, particularly the so-called Euro-plus-pact aimed at boosting competitiveness and adopted by EU leaders in March.

"I was never a strong believer of this Euro-plus-pact. I can't criticise it too much, since I also approved it, but if I was alone, I would not have adopted it. There is nothing new in it. All ideas had already been on the table of the Council [of ministers], but there was never much political will to implement them."

Surveillance policies, so that countries do not run huge budget deficits and fall into a vortex of debt and low credit ratings, had also been in place, but were ignored by "the very sinners who are now preaching about the need to enhance surveillance" - France and Germany.

Ireland's and Spain's real-estate problems, Greece's lack of budgetary discipline "were all mentioned in the Eurogroup, but ministers rejected the idea of interfering in domestic affairs," he said.

"Every one is now discovering the virtues of co-ordinating economic policies, even though these are rather old and unsuccessful stories," Juncker said, listing a whole series of such attempts: the macro-economic guidelines of the 90s, the stability and growth pact watered down by France and Germany, the Cardiff process, the Luxembourg process, the Lisbon Agenda.

"Don't be impressed when a new process is invented. It was not the absence of instruments, but the lack of political will to implement them [that led to the current crisis.]"

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS (20 April) - Eurogroup chief and Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker telling how he "had to lie" in his career in order not to feed market speculations. He was speaking at a conference on economic governance organised by the European Movement.

Watch more EUobserver videos here

Finnish PM could replace Juncker as Eurogroup chief

Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen has invited select EU leaders and ministers to a "winter retreat" in Finland in a potential lobbying opportunity for the top job in the eurozone.

Focus

Who is Jean-Claude Juncker?

From prodigy politician in Luxembourg to master of deception as Eurogroup chair, Jean-Claude Juncker brings both experience and baggage with his nomination as EU commission president.

Juncker re-opens race for Eurogroup chief

Eurogroup chief Juncker has opened the race for his succession, with French finance minister Moscovici or Austrian leader Faymann seen as possible candidates.

News in Brief

  1. British PM to speak out on US terrorism leaks
  2. Tusk calls for 'values, not just interests' after Trump meeting
  3. Pressure grows on climate impact of EU timber harvesting
  4. US goes after Fiat Chrysler over emissions cheat
  5. Munich police break up Europe-wide burglar clan
  6. Report: VW threatened with €19.7 billion French fine
  7. Turkey begins mass trial of suspected coup leaders
  8. Merkel's CDU consolidates lead in polls

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Cost of Speaking Out: Human Rights Violations Committed in Belarus
  2. ACCABanishing Bias? Audit, Objectivity and the Value of Professional Scepticism
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Oslo Climate Declaration Focuses on Rising Temperatures in the Arctic
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceAbdominal Obesity: A Causal Risk Factor for Cardiometabolic Diseases
  5. EU Green Week 2017Discuss EU Environmental Policies With Industry Experts and Thought Leaders
  6. GEN Summit 2017Join the World's Leading Media Summit for Thought-Provoking Talks and Experiences
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsTogether for Human Rights: A Year in Review
  8. Malta EU 2017EU All Set for Free Roaming Starting 15 June
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersRefugee Unemployment Biggest Drain on Public Purse, Says New Nordic Studies
  10. Dialogue Platform17,000 Women, 515 Babies in Turkish Prisons, a Report Reveals
  11. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  12. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey