"In the coming weeks the Commission will build on the six-pack and present a proposal for a single, coherent framework to deepen economic coordination and integration, in particular in the euro area," Commission President José Manuel Barroso said in his State of the Union address on Wednesday (28 September).
The proposal will be merged with ideas put forward by EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy and the European Central Bank. On 17 and 18 October, EU leaders will dig into a paper suggesting a new institutional framework for the governance of the eurozone.
France and Germany have already made clear that they want to institutionalise eurozone summits, which is seen by many as a move to snatch from the Commission some of the economic powers previously delegated to Brussels.
As a result, it is likely that eurozone leaders will meet in the future twice a year, "not only in crisis situations but in a regular manner," said an EU official.
It is also likely that these meetings will be chaired by Van Rompuy. "He is already the President of the EU Council. There is nothing wrong in chairing also a group which comprises a smaller number of EU members," added a Commission official.
Branded as Mister Euro, this new position is however far from being guaranteed real powers. The Eurogroup will indeed keep meeting on a monthly basis and key decisions will still be up to economic and finance ministers.
The presidency of the Eurogroup will therefore remain a crucial position in steering eurozone economic policies. And this is exactly the trade-off that the Commission is thinking about for accepting the strengthening of the inter-governmental method requested by Paris and Berlin.
The role that is now held by Luxembourg Prime Minister and Finance Minister Jean-Claude Juncker could be given in the future to the commissioner in charge of economic and financial affairs, currently held by Olli Rehn.
Van Rompuy may be Mister Euro, but Rehn should become Mister Eurogroup, goes the argument of the Commission.
"This idea is on the table," confirms a high official of the European Commission, conceding that "the debate is still ongoing."
"Indeed, 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 to do so," the official added.
Juncker's mandate ends in mid-2012 but the decision on his replacement will come much earlier.
A fight against unanimity
In his speech Barroso also criticised the principle of unanimity which is still used for key decisions in the Council of member states. "The pace of our joint endeavour cannot be dictated by the slowest," he said calling unanimity a "constraint".
He clearly referred to the idea of changing the unanimity rule in Council decisions, but considering that this will require treaty changes, any possible step forward in this direction is not likely to be fast.
But there are other decision-making bodies that apply this rule without any treaty indication. "We could easily change the unanimity rule of the EFSF," an EU official said, clarifying that this can be done pretty easily without treaty changes.
The European Financial Stability Facility plays a crucial role in the current economic crisis and will see its powers grow after the final ratification of its recent reform by all member states. The crucial German go-ahead came yesterday (29 September).
By mid-2013 the EFSF will be replaced by the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) but it will close down only "once all outstanding debt has been repaid", which could take years.