During an endless night in Brussels, the Euro Area countries danced on the edge of the abyss. The spirit of solidarity and responsibility finally prevailed and the right decisions were taken to keep Greece in the Euro Area and protect its – and thus Europe’s – integrity. But the Greek crisis, beyond that country’s own specific situation, served as a reminder of the shortcomings and fragilities of the Euro Area itself. Too little political governance, too many economic differences – this is the conclusion drawn.
From the outset of the crisis, gaps in income, competitiveness and employment between countries have widened at the same time as a growing popular distrust of Europe and growing suspicion between member states about compliance with rules, for some, and supporting growth, for others. Yet important progress has been made on ensuring greater stability for the Euro Area in times of crisis. Banking union, the European Stability Mechanism and the European Central Bank’s monetary policy today prevent a banking or financial crisis in one country from spreading to others. This is an undeniable step forward. But we can’t content ourselves with this.
For the Euro Area does not need only shock absorbers, it needs an engine. The euro is actually much more than a currency. It is a political project, a shared sovereignty to strengthen our economies, our growth, employment and thus ultimately our societies in globalization. This is why we must put back at the heart of this project the goal of genuine convergence between the Euro Area economies. Convergence which is economic, financial, fiscal and social.
At the same time, we must ensure effective management of the Euro Area to benefit growth and employment. So today we must not oppose but reinforce compliance with the rules, solidarity, convergence and legitimacy.
In order to ensure this greater convergence and really effective Euro Area governance, we need financial instruments. The history of the European enterprise has often gone down this road.
It was the doubling of the sums allocated to structural funds that enabled Jacques Delors to persuade member states to create the single market.
Tomorrow, the creation of a Euro Area budget, which will build on the Juncker Plan by giving the EU the means to support investment and intervene – if necessary – in the economic cycle, will have to be a new stage in our integration.
In order to manage this project and this budget, we’ll need legitimate and effective institutions. Euro Area summits must stop being last-chance meetings and must take place regularly, so as to build and not merely repair. The Eurogroup must be led by a stable presidency dedicated entirely to this mission, which aims to ensure convergence between our economies, coherence and the coordination of our policies. And there can be no Euro Area government without a Euro Area parliament, because there can be no effectiveness without legitimacy. The Euro Area parliament will enable everyone to be involved in decisions and will make Europe more meaningful to people. The single currency is our common good.
It’s not only a means of trading, or even an end in itself. It’s one of the tools of our ambition: the emergence of a common feeling, a shared identity, solidarity in good and bad times. So, along with those countries that decide on it – and we’re working on this – we’re going to push for an enhanced organization of the Euro Area. That’s the lesson we’ve learnt from recent events. Our approach is still based on the “de facto solidarity” beloved of Robert Schuman, Alcide de Gasperi and Konrad Adenauer. But we must take an additional step: that of moving from Economic and Monetary Union to political union, from the “currency euro” to the “political euro”./.