Germany, France plan new pact - report

 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are planning more drastic means - including a quick new Stability Pact - to fight the euro zone sovereign debt crisis, Welt am Sonntag reported today.



The Sunday newspaper reported that if necessary Germany and France were ready to join a number of countries in agreeing to tough budget discipline.

The report quoted German government sources as saying that the crisis fighting plan could possibly be announced by Ms Merkel and Mr Sarkozy in the coming week.

The report said that because it would take too long to change existing European Union treaties, euro zone countries should avoid such delays be agreeing to a new Stability Pact among themselves - possibly implemented at the start of 2012.

It could be similar to the Schengen Agreement that allows for uninhibited cross border travel for citizens in countries that take part. Among the countries in the Stability Pact there would be a treaty spelling out strict deficit rules and control rights for national budgets.

The European Central Bank should also emerge more as a crisis fighter in the euro zone. The ECB is independent and governments cannot tell it what to do. But the expectations on the ECB are clear, Welt am Sonntag wrote.

"Based upon these measures, there should be a majority within the ECB for a stronger intervention in capital markets," Welt am Sonntag said. It quotes a central banker as saying: "If the politicians can agree to a comprehensive step, the ECB will jump in and help."

In Brussels on Friday, euro zone officials said a push by euro zone countries toward very close fiscal integration could give the ECB the necessary room for manoeuvre to scale up euro zone bond purchases and stabilize markets.

The ECB, which cannot directly finance governments, has been buying Italian and Spanish bonds on the secondary market since August to try to keep down borrowing costs for the euro zone's third and fourth largest economies and contain the spreading of Europe's sovereign debt problem.

Such tight fiscal integration is being considered by France and Germany, the officials said, with Berlin pushing to change the European Union treaty so that a country could be sued for breach of EU budget rules in the European Court of Justice.

The European Commission, the EU executive arm, put forward proposals on Wednesday to grant it intrusive powers of approval of euro zone budgets before they are submitted to national parliaments, which, if approved, would effectively mean ceding some national sovereignty over budgets.

This could lead to joint debt issuance for the euro zone, where countries would be liable for each others' debts.

Germany strongly opposes the joint issuance idea fearing spendthrift countries would piggyback on its low borrowing costs - meaning no gain for the virtuous and no pain for the sinners.