Sunday

29th Mar 2020

Barroso says German calls for treaty change are 'naive'

  • Jose Manuel Barroso has some harsh words for Germany (Photo: European Commission)

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has said Germany's plans to try to change the treaty to enhance economic governance in the eurozone are "naive" and accused Berlin of showing a lack of leadership throughout the current eurozone crisis.

In an interview published in Tuesday's (25 May) edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Mr Barroso said that it would not be possible to make changes to the treaty in order to only to tighten eurozone rules.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Other member states would want to see modifications in other areas too, he indicated.

"It would also be naive to think one can reform the treaty only in areas Germany considers important," said the Portuguese politician.

The message is a clear rebuke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who alone has been pushing the idea that treaty change is needed to bring budget discipline to the eurozone, rocked in recent months first by the extent of Greece's debt problems and then by the lack of automatic governance rules to deal with the crisis.

"We will not propose treaty modifications even though we are open to good ideas," said Mr Barroso.

Speaking about Ms Merkel's key ideas of strengthening the enforcement of EU budget rules using harsher penalties, Mr Barroso said member states were already considering linking the doling out of EU funds to budget discipline.

But he questioned the legal validity of the German idea to punish serial violators of the rules by removing their voting rights.

"There are already procedures by which states with excessive deficits do not vote. Under constitutional law it would be nearly impossible to do more, in my view," he said.

Lack of leadership

Mr Barroso, who previously has been accused of not being outspoken enough when it comes to large member states, was also unusually frank in his overall assessment of Germany's role in dealing with the Greek crisis.

He accused politicians across the spectrum of the EU's largest member state of not making the case for helping Greece and spelling out the benefits of eurozone membership.

"Germany was until now a big winner from the euro. I find that more politicians in Germany should make that clear."

Referring to the German trade surplus of €134 billion, the commission president asked: "Does the German public know that nearly 86 percent of these 134 billion, i.e., 115 billion, comes from trade in the EU?"

Mr Barroso also accused Berlin of giving the impression at the beginning of the crisis that it did not want to help out Greece at all.

His blunt words follow months of turmoil in the eurozone as it waited for Germany, traditionally the EU's paymaster, to take the lead on how to deal with Athens.

Amid growing criticism, Ms Merkel held out for Athens to impose tougher austerity measures while the markets sensed their was no conviction behind a series of political commitments to come to Greece's rescue.

The chancellor, for her part, had to contend with a German public extremely hostile to the idea of helping Greece.

While Ms Merkel insisted she had to wait until the eurozone was threatened as a way of making sure Germany's contribution to the €750 billion EU/IMF rescue package (€148 billion) would not be challenged in the constitutional court, the tabloid papers appeared to lead the debate with lurid anti-Greek headlines.

Germany's parliament last week agreed the country's share of the bill, but in return, Ms Merkel wants to make sure that such a situation is never allowed to happen again, prompting her talk of modifying the treaty.

Analysis

First 100 days: Digital and Green Deal policies hit by crises

The first 100 days of Ursula von der Leyen's commission were supposed to be about the digital and environmental transitions. However, that agenda has been hit by first the coronavirus, and now the Greek border situation.

Feature

How corporate lobbyists steer EU law-making

Former EUobserver investigations editor Peter Teffer has written a new book about how lobbying in the EU works. The EU's focus on the internal market offers corporate lobbyists a perfect means to forward their interests.

Investigation

G4S: the EU's preferred security contractor

The British multinational security company G4S lost its contract with the European Parliament in 2011 in a backlash from MEPs over alleged abuses in Israel. Today, they guard the parliament's main entrance and have become the EU's top security provider.

Exclusive

EU commissioner lobbied by energy firm he owns shares in

EU budget commissioner Johannes Hahn owns 2,200 shares in Austria's largest electricity provider. Those shares have tripled in value since he first declared them in 2014. In January, the firm met his head of cabinet to discuss climate policy.

EU transparency on lobbyist meetings still piecemeal

Small steps are being made to reveal who is lobbying who within the EU. But the approach is basically haphazard and piecemeal - meaning the public remains largely in the dark and unable to truly scrutinise the influencers.

'Top-down' future of Europe conference 'will fail' warning

The new president of the Committee of the Regions has warned the EU Commission that a top-down, centralised, Brussels-driven conference will fail to rebuild trust in Europe. Instead, he proposes a stronger say for local and regional authorities.

News in Brief

  1. UK health minister tests positive for coronavirus
  2. Orban: coronavirus exposes EU 'weaknesses'
  3. Court orders Netherlands to pay colonial victims
  4. Belgian cat 'infected by coronavirus'
  5. UK PM Johnson tests positive for coronavirus
  6. EU agrees Libya naval mission after Greek solution
  7. US to upgrade its nuclear bombs in Europe
  8. US surpasses China and Italy with 82,404 corona cases

This is the (finally) approved European Commission

MEPs gave the green light to the entire new European Commission during the plenary session in Strasbourg - but with the abstention of the Greens and a rejection by the leftist group GUE/NGL.

Magazine

Welcome to the EU engine room

Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Latest News

  1. EU doctors: bring refugees on Greek islands to safety
  2. Russia's top coronavirus 'fake news' stories
  3. WHO warning on lockdown mental health
  4. Virus: Frontex tells officers to keep guarding Greek borders
  5. EU heads struggle to find joint virus response
  6. Poland's sham presidential election in a pandemic
  7. Von der Leyen warns 'end selfishness' in virus crisis
  8. Chinese ambassador to EU: put trust before politics

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us