Treaty changes should not be taboo, says German chancellor

 

AMENDMENTS:GERMAN CHANCELLOR Angela Merkel again raised the sceptre of changes to the European Union treaty to harden governance and fiscal rules during yesterday’s summit, saying such a development should not be “taboo”.

As she arrived for the meeting of the 27 EU leaders in Brussels, Dr Merkel told reporters: “We want more Europe and stronger rights to intervene. Treaty changes for that should not be taboo.” However, she gave no indication that Germany would press for short-term change and referred to the more immediate problems affecting the euro zone.

“Today we are preparing for a decision on Wednesday,” she said of yesterday’s deliberations. “That is important because we are dealing with a technically complex process.”

Dr Merkel has been consistently calling for treaty change that would shore up rules but would also result in member states ceding a portion of their sovereignty to Brussels.

Her comments were strongly echoed by German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle in Brussels on Saturday, who said that the euro zone would be plunged into repeated crises in future unless such amendments were made.

“It is not enough to simply . . . plug budget gaps, fight debt with new debt. It is essential that there be treaty changes,” he said.

Mr Westerwelle told a gathering of ministers for Europe on Saturday that the EU should have the power to exert greater control over national budgets, and emphasised the “urgent” need for treaty change.

Such changes would allow the EU to have greater oversight roles over national budgets and ensure the stability pact was being complied with.

There has been a muted response to the German proposal from other member states, with little appetite being shown to a suggestion that is seen as long term.

While there is no desire for immediate engagement, EU sources say that from a long-term strategic political viewpoint, this may be part of the price euro zone states will pay for German agreement to increase the firepower of the bailout fund beyond €1,000 billion to as much as €2,000 billion.

The Irish Government has, not surprisingly, been cool on the suggestion, given the significant difficulties that would be entailed in presenting a referendum that would involve a substantial ceding of sovereignty to Europe.

“We need immediate solutions. We should exhaust existing instruments and policies to the full in dealing with the current crisis,” the Government spokesman said yesterday when asked to comment on Dr Merkel’s remarks.

The draft European summit statement, prepared ahead of yesterday’s talks, included language pointing to treaty change.

A section of the conclusion focusing on further integration of the European Union said that as the euro was at the core of the European project, leaders would “strengthen the economic union to make it commensurate with the monetary union”.

European Council president Herman Van Rompuy will steer a group that will identify possible steps towards achieving this goal.

“The focus should be on how to further strengthen economic convergence within the euro area, to improve the effectiveness of enforcement mechanisms and to deepen fiscal integration.

Mr Van Rompuy has been asked to finalise an interim report by December with a full report scheduled for June of next year.

That report will also include a road-map and will also flag any issues that require treaty change under article 48, the article which sets out the rules under which Europe can amend the treaty.