Macron and Merkel back single budget and finance minister for eurozone

29 Sep 17

A eurozone finance minister and a joint eurozone budget could be features of the European Union under plans being considered by the leaders of France and Germany.

French president Emmanuel Macron outlined his idea for a “profound transformation” of the post-Brexit EU on 26 September, winning the backing of German chancellor Angela Merkel for reforms of the bloc.

According to a French aide, the two leaders met for half an hour before an EU dinner in Estonia and Merkel welcomed Macron’s speech as “visionary”.

She also backed Macron’s plans for a European Monetary Fund that would redistribute money within the eurozone to where it was needed and his vision of a more integrated bloc.

But she also noted the concerns of her potential new coalition partners and northern governments, such as the Netherlands and Finland, who are wary of Macron’s suggestions for pooling budgets with less fiscally austere states in the south of the continent.

Merkel said the potential role of an “economics and finance minister” would create greater consistency to the economic policy in the EU.

Although the details of Macron’s reform are yet to be worked out, he suggested the centralised eurozone budget is overseen by a parliament and would smooth out national economic crises.

During a speech at Sorbonne University in Paris, Macron said: “The Europe that we know is too weak, too slow, too inefficient.

“But Europe alone can give us the ability to act in the world faced with big contemporary changes.”

As well as the call for a finance minister, a budget and a parliament, he also called for a new tax on technology and an EU-wide asylum agency to deal with the refugee crisis.

“A budget can only go hand-in-hand with strong political leadership led by a common [finance] minister and a strong parliamentary supervision at the European level,” Macron said.

The head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, also proposed EU reforms earlier this month, including making the euro compulsory for all member states.

He praised Macron’s vision for a new EU with a tweet saying: “A very European speech by my friend Emmanuel Macron. Europe needs courage. Thank you for your support for the work of the EU institutions”.

He also said on twitter: “What we need now is a roadmap to advance the Union at 27. We have to openly discuss all ideas and decide before May 2019”.

 

The commission is expected to public proposals for a eurozone finance minister and other reforms in early December.

Belgium prime minister Charles Michel has also expressed support for Macron’s ideas, adding that the EU should increase its ambition.

The German elections last weekend resulted in the smallest win Merkel’s party has had since 1949, with the Social Democrats in second place.  Talks about a new coalition are now ongoing and the German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble will become the new president of the German Parliament.

 

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