16th Sep 2019

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 18 year's of archives. 30 days 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.

The new European Commission: what's next?

Informal interviews with von der Leyen, hearings with parliamentary committees, and votes in the EU parliament and Council await the 26 candidates.


US billionaires funding EU culture war

Conservative US billionaires, some with links to Trump, are paying anti-abortion lobbyists in Europe tens of millions of dollars to shape policy and law.


The EU committee's great 'per diem' charade

Around 30 members of European Economic Social Committee, who live and work primarily in Brussels or nearby, have claimed €1.47m in a 'daily subsistence' allowance from European taxpayers to cover accommodation, food and local transport for meetings held in Brussels.

News in Brief

  1. No new backstop proposal at Juncker-Johnson lunch
  2. Saudi oil production in flames after drone attack
  3. US: attack on Saudi oil came from Iran or Iraq
  4. Poll: Belgium's far-right Vlaams Belang largest party
  5. Nationalist parties to support Sanchez if he makes deal
  6. EU finance ministers support simplification of fiscal rules
  7. Italy's Renzi ready to set up new political force
  8. Two independents come top in Tunisia presidential election


The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.


Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. In detail: Belgium's EU nominee faces crime probe
  2. France urges EU virtual currency rules amid Libra risk
  3. Brexit and new commission in focus This WEEK
  4. As recession looms Europe needs more spending
  5. How should the EU handle Russia now?
  6. EU defence bravado criticised by auditors
  7. Central European leaders demand Balkan EU accession
  8. Luxembourg's cannabis legalisation is EU opportunity

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us