Saturday

15th Dec 2018

Germany softens stance on EU treaty change

  • Schaeuble: 'Where it cannot be done within the current legal framework, we will do on an inter-governmental or bilateral level' (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The eurozone's planned banking union is "urgent" and should be created within the current EU treaties, German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Tuesday (7 May) after previously suggesting a treaty change was needed.

"Banking union is a central project, we need institutional changes but we cannot wait for a treaty change. We need to work with what we have," Schaeuble said during a debate with his French counterpart Pierre Moscovici at the Berlin Free University.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

He explained that after the Cyprus bailout negotiations - which involved imposing losses on depositors - it is "urgent to have unified rules" on how to deal with failings banks in the eurozone.

"Where it cannot be done within the current legal framework, we will do on an inter-governmental or bilateral level," Schaeuble added.

The German minister last month suggested a treaty change was needed to complete the banking union - a step which would require years of horse trading among member states.

Both the legal services of the European Commission and the European Council disagreed with him on whether a treaty change is needed.

The German shift on treaty change on Tuesday was accompanied by a somewhat softer stance on deficit reduction, after the EU commission last week gave France two extra years to meet its deficit target.

Schaeuble said his government shares Brussels' view that France is committed to structural reforms and that sometimes countries have to be given more time to meet targets.

He was less forthcoming when it comes to Germany showing more "solidarity" - meaning picking up the tab for failing banks in other countries - as France is asking for, however.

"We would never vote for each other's party," the centre-right German politician said about Moscovici, who is from the Socialist camp.

"But we have a common task and conviction that France and Germany have a special responsibility for Europe. Now, of course, we still have to discuss the right balance between mutualisation of risks and responsibilities," Schaeuble noted.

For his part, Moscovici said Paris would never agree to ceding more sovereignty to Brussels - a German demand - unless the eurozone manages to transform itself into an area where young people find jobs.

"Europe is not just about common discipline, but also a project of more employment and democratic scrutiny," Moscovici said.

He repeated the idea of having a eurozone-only budget helping to level out macro-economic imbalances and said that in the medium term there should be a eurozone economics minister who should be supervised by the European Parliament.

Moscovici also spoke of the need for more harmonised interest rates for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

"SMEs in Italy don't have the same chances as SMEs in Germany because they do not have the same financing conditions. We'll work on this together, I know what the German limits are concerning the institutional framework. But we need more solidarity, it is still underdeveloped," Moscovici said.

Schaeuble retorted that SMEs get higher interest rates on loss in Italy compared to Germany in part because business conditions there still need reform, for example, to have more quickly responsive courts.

Responding to a question from the audience, Schaeuble said he is "worried" about Germany's image abroad, about a German Europe.

"We have to take it seriously and Franco-German relations are important in countering it," he said.

He also noted that while being criticised abroad for pushing for too much austerity, within Germany government critics often say Germany is not doing enough to save money.

For his part, Moscovici said Germany is about more than just austerity.

"We need to stay away from caricature. Although I admit some of my friends do it too," the French Socialist said, in reference to a recent position drafted paper by his party which blamed Chancellor Angela Merkel for being "selfish" on EU financing.

"Of course, traditionally, Germany focuses greatly on rules. It also needs to be flexible, to understand how things work. There is no one-size-fits-all rule. But overall, we have good Franco-German relations," Moscovici said.

He added, jokingly, that one irritant may be the fact that German football teams are "winning too much lately."

Germany denies stalling on banking union

The German government has denied putting the brakes on the eurozone's "banking union," but says it would require an EU treaty change which could take years.

Lead MEP on Morocco resigns as her report passes

MEPs ultimately adopted a controversial report on an EU trade deal with Morocco - despite the sudden resignation by French liberal Patricia Lalonde as the file's rapporteur only moments beforehand. Her departure follows an EUobserver investigation into lobbying by Morocco.

Razor-edge victory for more lobbying transparency at EP

New rules to force MEPs chairing committees or drafting reports to publish meetings with registered lobbyists took a step closer to reality. The measure was narrowly backed 11 to 10 at the constitutional affairs committee but still needs plenary approval.

Leading MEP defends expenses secrecy

The man tasked with making the EP more transparent has said there are more important issues than making MEP monthly expenses public.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders endorse creation of eurozone budget
  2. Selmayr has no comment on MEPs' call to resign
  3. May had 'robust' discussion with Juncker
  4. UK to continue talks on EU 'assurances'
  5. EU invests €20m in AI software for self-driving cars
  6. Belgian PM 'not optimistic', urges 'no deal' Brexit preparedness
  7. Romanian president expects no Brexit summit in January
  8. Swedish MPs reject Lofven to lead new government

Opinion

EU parliament vote strengthens whistleblower protection

We must not undervalue what a massive step the European Parliament vote represents. The hard work has paid off. We can take a moment to celebrate, but the hard work begins again for finalising strong protection for European whistleblowers.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. No more Brexit talks, despite May's pleas
  2. EU leaders stuck on asylum reform
  3. Orban and other PMs spread fake news, says Juncker
  4. Fishing quota and no-deal Brexit preparation This WEEK
  5. Kosovo has right to own army, Germany and US say
  6. EU needs election-meddling stress tests
  7. Russian and US obstruction was 'insult' to climate scientists
  8. EU-27 unimpressed by May, offer little on Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us