Forget the United States of Europe, French ex-minister says


EXCLUSIVE / The European Union will never receive enough public support for federalism and so should abandon the idea of a United States-inspired superstate, says the influential French Socialist former minister Hubert Védrine.

Germans will never foot the bill and other Europeans will not accept the loss of sovereignty that a supranational state would entail, Védrine told on the margins of the Organisation for Econonic Co-operation and Development’s New World Forum in Paris.

Védrine suggested that a 'grand bargain' where Germany bailed out struggling European economies in exchange for more solidarity would never gain traction.

"For the Germans, it would mean that the entire euro zone is under German control – of the Bundestag and the Court of Karlsruhe. For others, it would mean that Germany must pay for countries in difficulty."

“I do not believe for a second in a supranational vision, where the nation-states transfer their competencies to a higher level and where the states will be reduced to regions. The European people will never accept that. To start with Germany."

"The federal leap means nothing,” Védrine said.

United States of Europe

“Let’s abandon this perspective – this will discourage the 0.01% of the people who are federalist – and let us not compare ourselves to the United States,” he said.

“When the Americans created the United States, they brought together Americans. The same when Bismarck brought together the Germans. As General de Gaulle said, you don’t make an omelette with hard-boiled eggs.”

Védrine, 65, served as foreign minister to the government of Lionel Jospin from 1997 to 2002. A Socialist, he was tipped for a senior role under François Hollande in 2012 but the French president opted for a younger cabinet.

Védrine admitted that the solution to the eurozone crisis had mostly been driven by Northern Europe. “But the common political economy should not be reduced to the transmission of German demands to other countries,” he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has mooted in interviews the idea of a “political union” where countries ceded more sovereignty as a solution to save the euro currency

“We need more Europe, we need not only a monetary union, but we also need a so-called fiscal union, in other words more joint budget policy,” Merkel was quoted as saying June last year.

France so far has been reluctant to take a leap towards federalism but may advocate ceding some fiscal control to Germany in exchange for Eurobonds and debt-pooling under a “grand bargain”. For Germany that would be the end point of a fiscal union.

"It is very important also in terms of confidence for the investment in the Euro area now. We will support an ambitious and structural approach which should include a roadmap and a timetable for a full economic and monetary union in the Euro area."

Speaking after an EU summit in May, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said Eurobonds were not off the table completely but could be considered after a new stage in the EU's fiscal and economic integration.

"Eurobonds were discussed in the specific chapter of the long-term project of deepening the monetary and economic union," Van Rompuy said. "Nobody was asking for an immediate introduction. This would take time. It is the end of a process to consider what the legal implications of all this are."

The European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said at the conclusion of the May EU summit that Eurobonds could be envisaged but only after greater fiscal integration. "Euro bonds make sense when you have a fiscal union, otherwise they don't make sense," Draghi told reporters in Brussels

Germany’s European Central Bank executive board member, Jörg Asmussen, said ahead of the summit that the euro zone should be backed by “a fiscal union and banking union as well as a democratic legitimised political union”.

His words were echoed by Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble who recently argued in favour of a directly-elected European Commission president with greater control over the EU's fiscal policy.

European leaders have agreed to discuss plans for deeper economic integration as part of their longer term plans to solve the ongoing debt crisis in the euro area.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy will present a report on 28 June exploring ways to deepen economic integration, including the subject of Eurobonds, which would pool part of European debt and reduce the borrowing costs of fragile economies like Spain or Italy.

France wants Eurobonds introduced quickly but Germany opposes this, saying it could consider them only after a new stage in the EU's fiscal and economic integration. The European Central Bank has argued along the same line.

Subscribe to our newsletters