Barroso: ‘No country can be expelled from euro zone’

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In an interview to be broadcast ahead of an EU summit next week, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso says expelling a country from the euro zone, as suggested by German Chancellor Merkel, would be against EU treaty rules.

Speaking to the France 24 TV channel, Barroso was reacting to comments made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said EU rules needed to changed so that countries that repeatedly break the bloc's economic guidelines can be expelled from the euro zone (EURACTIV 18/03/10).

"According to the Lisbon Treaty, no country can be put out of the euro zone," Barroso said. "Some ideas can be floated for the future, but this is simply not possible according to the treaty."

The interview will be broadcast in full on Saturday 20 March at 12:40 Paris time and was made available as an exclusive preview for EURACTIV readers.

In the short run, the Commission president insisted that surveillance of eurozone countries should be strengthened. "This is what we are going to put forward next month: some mechanism […] that will guarantee that a country can in fact respect the fundamental principle" of fiscal stability.

"Solidarity is a two-way street," Barroso explained. "When a member state is a member of the euro, it also has obligations towards the others. It is not only to receive some support: it is also to respect the rules that have been commonly agreed."

Barroso refused to elaborate on what might happen if Greece were to snub the Europeans and turn to the IMF if it does not receive financial assistance from the EU.

"What I want to remind people is that Greece and all the member states of the EU are members of the IMF. In fact the EU member states are by far the biggest source of revenue for the IMF. So it's not a question of prestige, it's a question of seeing what is the best way to respond to the situation."

Asked about Germany's refusal to provide funding for debt-stricken Greece, Barroso insisted that all EU countries, including Germany, stood ready to help.

"Yes, Germany is ready in case Greece needs it," he said, stressing that Athens had not yet asked for financial support.

"Just this week I received [Greek] Prime Minister Papandreou. He did not make any request for financial support. What we believe we should have now is as soon as possible some kind if mechanism prepared just in case."

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