France open to new EU ‘solidarity’ treaty

Bernard Cazeneuve PS_small.jpg

France is open to the idea of a new European Union treaty to deepen integration if it is deemed necessary for new "solidarity" mechanisms in the bloc such as debt mutualisation, said French Minister for European Affairs Bernard Cazeneuve.

Cazeneuve was reacting to calls this month by José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel for a new treaty to help the bloc overcome a sovereign debt crisis through integration.

"If, for greater solidarity, for more efficiency in the mechanisms of mutualising debt or intervening in the markets, new treaties are necessary, then yes, we'll need new treaties," Cazeneuve told news web site Mediapart during a panel debate on Thursday (27 September).

A new treaty could also help improve economic governance, give citizens a greater voice in European affairs, and better coordinate industrial and clean energy policies, he added.

The Germany weekly Der Spiegel reported last month that Merkel wants an EU 'convention' to draw up a new treaty that would transfer some areas of national sovereignty, notably authority over budgets, to European institutions.

Merkel hopes a summit of EU leaders in December will be able to agree a concrete date for the start of the convention on a new treaty, Der Spiegel reported.

Barroso, in a speech to the European Parliament, called for the bloc to be turned into a 'federation of nation states' in a sweeping call for countries to give up more sovereignty and move toward greater integration.

A more social side to EU integration?

France's position so far has been to achieve as much integration as possible within the confines of the Lisbon Treaty, the bloc's governing agreement, which entered into force in December 2009 after years of wrangling.

But the Socialist-led government now appears ready to discuss further changes to the EU treaty if they imply greater solidarity between member nations, such as debt mutualisation, which President François Hollande has insistently called for.

The promise of further changes to the EU treaty, adding a more social angle to European integration, would help the Socialists ratify the European fiscal discipline pact. The proposal has provoked a backbench rebellion among Hollande's leftist allies in the French Parliament.

It would also help the Socialists calm popular discontent about the EU's fiscal discipline treaty, denounced as a Conservative ploy by thousands of protesters who marched in Paris yesterday (30 September).

Angela Merkel has insisted on achieving fiscal union in the eurozone – and centralised EU oversight on debt – as a prerequisite for considering any moves towards greater debt sharing.

Now, the French Socialists seem decided on taking her at her word. “I came to tell you that France is favourable to political union,” Cazeneuve told a Brussels conference last week.

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