Slovak Minister: Barroso behind economic mess

Jan Pociatek.jpg

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso's recent criticism of Germany's calls for budgetary discipline to be tightened in the EU even if treaty change is required was "tactless", Slovak Finance Minister Ján Po?iatek told EURACTIV Slovakia in an exclusive interview.

Ján Po?iatek, born in 1970, is a Slovak politician and economist.

He was named Europe's best finance minister for 2008 by the Banker, a publication owned by the Financial Times.

He was speaking to EURACTIV Slovakia's Zuzana Vaskova.

In a recent interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso reacted strongly to German demands for tighter bugetary discipline in the EU. He called Berlin's proposals 'naive' and rejected calls for the EU treaties to be reviewed. Barroso also pointed out that the Germans are alone in their demands. What is Slovakia's position on this matter?

We are surprised that Barroso does not take into account the opinion of small countries in this matter, because Slovakia clearly supported German proposals to toughen up the Stability and Growth Pact. Other countries also voiced their sympathy. When Barroso tags the proposals as 'naive', it is the same naivity to assume that someone will be willing to pay a 100-billion euro bill without tightening discipline.

That concerns us as well: they cannot ask us to raise our debt up 20% without adequate guarantees.

We consider his remarks about Germany to be tactless, to say the least. In this sense, we welcome the stance of [Permanent EU] Council President [Herman] Van Rompuy, who sees the debate as open. We value his words "nothing is taboo" during the discussions very positively.

Barroso is perhaps afraid that treaty change would merely complicate the whole situation. We all remember the painful ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. And at the end of the day, the voices asking for the weakening of integration would maybe prevail. If this is his message, do you find it more understandable?

I do not find it adequate to doubt the extent of the possible changes right from the beginning. The situation is very serious. The European Union needs new, stronger rules which include sanctions as well. Changes to the Treaties therefore cannot be taboo. We do not need to talk about what needs to be changed in the Treaties and what does not. Let's find out how the necessary rules should look first, and then see how they can be adopted.

Don't you think that this discussion should have begun some time ago? Wasn't it certain member states, and not European Commission, who were hindering the process?

The erosion of fiscal rules has already been going on for the last six years and it was happening right under the Commission's nose. Barroso cannot pretend that this does not concern him, that he only came to a messy table and now has to clean it up. He has been sitting at that table for some years already.

In case the German proposals are refused, isnt't there a risk that Berlin will try to form a smaller group of countries to carry on with deeper integration?

This group does already exist. It is called the euro zone. Anyway, we cannot rule out this possibility.

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