5th Jul 2020

UK bank chief fears Paris, Berlin will push for eurozone political union

As trouble surrounding the Greek economy escalated earlier this year, Britain's top banker warned the US that France and Germany will push for political union inside the eurozone currency club and that this could damage London's influence within the EU.

The thoughts of Bank of England Governor Mervyn King were relayed to Washington by US Ambassador Louis Susman after the two men talked in February of this year, as revealed by a leaked cable from whistleblower site WikiLeaks.

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 subscribe as a group

  • Greater euro cohesion could hit Britain's influence inside the EU, warned Mr King (Photo: Downing Street)

"Germany and France will ultimately have no choice but to offer explicit guarantees of Greek debt, argued King," according to the cable.

"The eurozone could not risk a Greek default and euro devaluation would not be an acceptable political option for Germany or France. Germany and France will likely, as a condition of any guarantee, require the ability to scrutinize if not exercise some control over the Greek budget. Longer-term, the drive for greater political cohesion will accelerate."

In May, Greece was handed a €110 billion EU-IMF bail-out.

At the same time, the EU's statistics agency, Eurostat, was given greater powers to scrutinize member state economic data, and the subsequent setting up of a €750 billion eurozone rescue mechanism, only days later, further increased the determination of European leaders to better co-ordinate their economic policies.

A decade after warnings about monetary union being unstable without a parallel political union to co-ordinate economic policies were ignored, EU leaders appear to be coming round to the idea.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has put forward plans for a European "economic government," while European economy commissioner Olli Rehn has repeatedly said it is time to finally put the 'E' in Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

Already in February, Mr King worried that this drive for eurozone consolidation could sideline Britain's influence inside the EU.

"The eurozone's move to greater political cohesion could poise some disadvantages for the UK, King speculated," reads the US ambassador's cable.

As an example, the central banker apparently pointed to a meeting of EU finance ministers earlier in February, during which "eurozone governments politely listened to chancellor [Alistair] Darling when he commented on the situation in Greece, but he was not invited to attend internal discussions since the UK is not part of the eurozone."

Mr King went on to warn: "It would be incumbent for the UK to demonstrate that it has something meaningful to say and to be constructively engaged in the EU, should this greater political cohesion among the eurozone governments occur."

Separately, former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing has insisted that the eurozone is not in danger of breaking apart, arguing that it would be impossible for any state to leave and reclaim its former currency.

"It is impossible. Imagine a country decides to return to a national currency. Its citizens do not want. What could they do well with a currency devalued by 40 percent? There is no space for a small change," he told Le Parisien on Thursday

Facial-recognition moratorium back on EU agenda

Members of the committee on civil liberties widely supported a moratorium on facial recognition for law enforcement purposes, just after the EU data watchdog backed earlier this week the ban on this technology in public spaces.

EU parliament chairs explain missing lobbyist meetings

MEPs in January 2019 agreed to a rule change in a bid for greater transparency. The rules included requiring committee chairs to publish their meetings with registered lobbyists. EUobserver spoke to six chairs, who haven't done so yet.


Why so few women in EU missions?

Angela Merkel is only the seventh woman to chair the Council of the European Union's meetings. And in 2020 there is no woman leading any of the current 11 European civilian missions (let alone the six military operations).

Eminent women appeal for EU help on Palestine

West Bank annexation "was conceived almost entirely by men" and will crush the "dignity and rights" of Palestinian women still further, a group of 40 women leaders have said.


EU silent on US buying up world's remdesivir supplies

The European Commission says it is in talks with the US biopharmaceutical company Gilead to secure supplies of remdesivir but won't provide any details. The comments follow the purchase of the world's supply by the United States.

News in Brief

  1. EU grants Remdesivir conditional authorisation
  2. French prime minister and government resign
  3. France lied on Nato naval clash, Turkey claims
  4. EU highlights abuses in recent Russia vote
  5. Belgium bids to host EU mask stockpile
  6. France shamed on refugees by European court
  7. French and Dutch police take down criminal phone network
  8. EU launches infringement case on Covid-19 cancelled trips


On toppling statues

The internationally-acclaimed author of King Leopold's Ghost, Adam Hochschild, writes on Belgium's problems with statues, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.


The 150 random French citizens advising Macron

Some 150 randomly-picked men and women make up Emmanuel Macron's Citizens' Climate Convention. This week Macron invited them to the Élysée Palace and promised - nearly - all of their wishes would come true .

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us