“When my mandate will end in June 2012, we will see whether we could transform the presidency of the Eurogroup into a permanent presidency,” Juncker said yesterday (16 November) at the European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg.
Juncker’s remarks were echoed by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy. “When Juncker’s mandate expires next year, a decision will be taken on whether his position should become a full-time one based in Brussels,” he told MEPs.
Juncker also added that the EU Treaties do not prevent the president of the Eurogroup from being appointed outside the select group of eurozone finance ministers. The new president “can also come from outside” the circle of eurozone finance ministers who make up the Eurogroup, Juncker underlined.
Indeed, the Lisbon Treaty, in a specific protocol dedicated to the Eurogroup, says that “the ministers of the member states whose currency is the euro shall elect a president for two and a half years, by a majority of those member states,” without further detail.
The new president might therefore come from the private sector or from other EU institutions, with the last option appearing the most likely.
In recent months, the EU commissioner in charge of economic affairs, Olli Rehn, has been tipped as the possible new chairman of the Eurogroup. Rehn was recently charged with new tasks and powers by EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso, and many observers saw in this move an anticipation of his new functions within the Eurogroup.
However, many doubts remain within the European Commission about the consequences of such an appointment for Rehn and his successors in the post of EU finance commissioner. “Being the chairman of the Eurogroup means being super partes and this could decrease the proposing power of the Commission. We are still considering if it is worth doing so,” an EU official told EurActiv.
As for the duration of the mandate of the new president, it remains to be seen whether EU countries will have an appetite for changing the treaties and prolonging the current mandate of two and a half years. These might be included in the next round of treaty changes currently under consideration.
Eurozone summits 'as a rule'
Moreover, it is still unclear how the new Eurogroup president will cooperate with Van Rompuy who was recently appointed by European leaders as the new "Mister Euro". Van Rompuy's role should be strictly limited to presiding over summits of eurozone heads of states, which have now become a regular feature in EU high-level meetings.
“It is my intention to organise eurozone summits as a rule, in conjunction with European Council meetings, if possible following them,” Van Rompuy said yesterday.
“This will enable all 27 to contribute in the full European Council meeting and make points, should they so wish, on the issues to be discussed among the 17,” added Van Rompuy in words meant at addressing concerns of the 10 non-eurozone EU member states.
The non-eurozone group, led by Britain, fears being excluded from important decisions that ultimately have an impact on their economies.