Juncker sparks debate about a core eurozone union

Jean-Claude Juncker [European Council]

At the EU summit Thursday (12 February) Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker presented ideas for a core eurozone union, a concept viewed with apprehension from numerous quarters.

Juncker presented an Analytical Note on the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), prepared in close cooperation with the President of the European Council Donald Tusk, the President of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem, and the President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi.

The Euro Summit of 24 October 2014 invited Juncker, in close cooperation with Dijsselbloem and Draghi, “to prepare next steps on better economic governance in the euro area”.

One of the arguments used by Juncker is that the eurozone has not recovered from the 2008 economic crisis in the same way as the US, which might point to the fact that an incomplete monetary union adjusts much slower to downturns than unions with a more complete institutional framework in place.

Although the Analytical Note doesn’t go as far as asking for separate institutions, and that a special budget be set up for the eurozone, and also does not mention EU treaty changes, it raises a number of questions which lead in those directions.

“To what extent can the framework of EMU mainly rely on strong rules, and to what extent are strong common institutions also required?”, asked Juncker.

In particular, the question “How can accountability and legitimacy be best achieved in a multilevel setup such as EMU?” appears to suggest that Juncker is considering the setting-up of a eurozone parliament.

Other questions include:

  • “How could a better implementation and enforcement of the economic and fiscal governance framework be ensured?”,
  • “What instruments are needed in situations in which national policies continue – despite surveillance under the governance framework – to go harmfully astray?”
  • “To what extent is the present sharing of sovereignty adequate to meet the economic, financial and fiscal framework requirements of the common currency?”

As Juncker explained it, this analysis prepares the ground for discussion, and is meant to be the first step towards a report of the Four Presidents (Commission, Council, Eurogroup, ECB) on the future of the Economic and Monetary Union, expected for June. Member states are expected to be involved in the preparation of the report.

Central and Eastern European member states, which are not yet members of the eurozone, are wary of ideas promoting a core eurozone. To a certain extent, they are reassured by the fact that Council President Donald Tusk, a Pole, is also Euro Summit President and is closely involved in the preparations of future proposals.

Although the Report of the Four Presidents is expected in June, the Juncker proposals are likely to make waves in the UK, where general elections will be held on 7 May. British Prime Minister David Cameron has promised a referendum on the UK remaining in the EU if he wins the elections.

Cameron’s plan is based on a “new settlement of Britain in Europe”, which means a treaty change which doesn’t necessarily go in the same direction as for setting up a core eurozone union. 

Subscribe to our newsletters