Federal European Union versus Intergovernamental European Union

By Jacobo de Regoyos, in Brussels | The financial roulette russe has become a variable-geometry argument that serves both to justify an intergovernmental Europe and a federal Europe at the same time. Among the latter, we’d find most of EU officials, especially the president of the European Commission Durao Barroso, who believes that the EU must complete its monetary union with a real economic union. Yet, Barroso opposes the Franco-German project of setting up an economic government for the euro area led exclusively by the member states and chaired by the current president of the council Belgian Van Rompuy. According to Barroso, the Commission must be the actual economic government of the Union so there is no need for any new institutions.

Throughout this crisi it has been noted a not always discrete pulse between Barroso and Van Rompuy, who would represent the will of Paris and Berlin to keep control over the future economic governance. Barroso thinks otherwise and in his recent State of the Union speech before the European parliament said that a certain intergovernmentalism could mean the death of Europe as we know it. The now former European Central Bank president Jean Claude Trichet said, too, it was absolutely logical to end up with a Pan-European government, a single market, a single currency, one Central Bank, and a European finance minister to solve the apparent lack of leadership in the euro area during the economic turmoil (an important difference from US that Europe has paid dearly). There must be a certainty about who is in charge.

Assuming that one day a Pan-European Finance minister is appointed, we will have to pay close attention to her/his official duties. If the role is merely that of encouraging discussion and coordination between member states, then we already have Mr Juncker, the president of Eurogroup. This would be the intergovernmental perspective, which has been in place so far. To truly be supranational, the Eurofinance minister would have to yield powers like the ability to call to order and punish, with one foot on the Commission and the other one on the Council.

A transfer of sovereignty may seem unbearable for many, unfortunately, although not for the German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble, who has gone even further: in his opinion, looking ahead, rather than a European finance minister, we better appoint a President of the Union elected by universal suffrage. Nowadays, this seems far from feasible, of course, and would require the modification of all treaties, which everyone acknowledges as a dangerous, complex process we should avoid at all costs. Barroso will surely try to avoid it when he makes his proposal for Eurobonds.

While Eurobonds come, and forced by the events, the fact is that member states have been forced to create new instruments that are changing the EU’s skin for ever.  Some already are a reality. Others are taking shape. Change or death.

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