Schaeuble sees need for separate eurozone parliament
By Lisbeth Kirk
German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has laid out ideas on how the single currency area should evolve, including having a eurozone parliament.
"Some of the changes will reflect the new realities of the eurozone. For example, I can imagine there will be a eurozone parliament," he told members of the centre-right EPP party, Europe's largest political party, in Brussels on Monday (27 January).
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He indicated that euro countries too often end up sidelining the EU institutions when it comes to decision-making, something that particularly riles the European Parliament.
Member states have been increasing turning to intergovernmental decisions – outside EU treaties – as they introduce legislation to tackle the roots of the EU’s economic crisis.
The nascent banking union as well as the European Stability Mechanism – the Eurozone bailout fund – are underpinned by intergovernmental treaties.
"We discussed the European bank resolution fund just last week, which will be financed with contributions from banks. But it cannot be introduced on the basis of the treaties in their current form,” said Schaeuble.
"We know treaty change is difficult - but the end of the discussion cannot be, that we do nothing."
"It would be relatively easy to achieve this by creating a eurozone parliament consisting of members of parliament from eurozone countries. This shows we can take certain steps even before getting treaty changes."
"But we need to be very careful to leave the door wide, wide open to member states which have not yet introduced the euro."
Schaeuble's plans - aired just four months ahead of EU elections – are likely to be controversial.
They raise questions about how the existing EU parliament would function alongside a new euro-focused institution. They are also likely to heighten concerns, particularly in non-euro Britain, that the eurozone is the political heart of the EU.
Swedish finance minister Anders Borg, who was also attending the discussion, expressed scepticism about the idea and questioned whether a new institution would improve citizens’ trust in the EU.