Sunday

26th Feb 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. Spanish court jails former IMF chief Rato
  2. Macron proposes Nordic-style economic model for France
  3. Germany posts record high budget surplus
  4. Labour ousts Ukip in Brexit homeland
  5. Dutch lower house approves EU-Ukraine treaty
  6. WTO says Russian pork ban was illegal
  7. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  8. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EURORDISJoin Rare Disease Day and Help Advocate for More Research on Rare Diseases
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  3. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  4. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  5. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  6. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  7. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  9. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  10. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  2. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year
  3. Centre Maurits CoppietersThe Situation of Refugee Women in Europe
  4. Salzburg Global SeminarToward a Shared Culture of Health: Charting the Patient-Clinician Relationship
  5. European Free AllianceAustria Should Preserve & Promote Bilingual and Multinational Carinthia
  6. Martens CentreShow Your Love for Democracy! Take Part in Our Contest: "If It's Broken, Let's Fix It"
  7. CISPECloud Computing Leaders Establish Data Protection Standards to Protect Customer Data
  8. Malta EU 2017Landmark Deal Reached With European Parliament on Portability of Online Content
  9. Belgrade Security ForumBSF 2017: Building a Common Future in the Age of Uncertainty
  10. CESIEU Not to Revise the Working Time Directive
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAzerbaijan: 76 NGOs Urge the EU to Use President's Visit to Insist on Human Rights Reforms
  12. UNICEFDeadliest Winter for Migrant Children Crossing the Central Mediterranean