Jean-Claude Trichet outlines his European dream

 
Jean-Claude Trichet to the right of Jose Manuel Barroso Mr Trichet made the speech as he collected a prize for European integration

Related Stories

Sometimes in public life a mask slips and for a moment behind those carefully weighed words you sense the real ambition.

It happened yesterday with the head of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet.

The candid moment might have been because he was receiving the Charlemagne prize in Aachen for European integration or it may also be that he is nearing the end of his time running the bank.

In his vision, the crisis in the eurozone is an opportunity for a great leap forward towards ever closer union.

He suggests a European finance ministry that would oversee spending by national governments.

"In this Union of tomorrow, or of the day after tomorrow," he said, "would it be too bold, in the economic field, with a single market, a single currency and a single central bank, to envisage a ministry of finance of the Union?"

He recognises that such a 'quantum leap' would need a dramatic political change including a treaty change.

Tighter monitoring

Start Quote

Would it go too far if we envisaged... giving euro area authorities a much deeper and authoritative say in the formation of the country's economic policies if these go harmfully astray”

End Quote Jean-Claude Trichet President, European Central Bank

Although he argued the precise opposite, the speech was a tacit admission that neither monetary union as it currently functions, nor the bail-outs that have followed, are working satisfactorily.

In his view, rules governing spending within the eurozone need to be tightened.

There are already plans for monitoring and peer review but Mr Trichet has in mind something "well over and above the reinforced surveillance that is presently envisaged".

When it comes to countries that have been bailed out but are still failing to get their deficits down he proposes that European officials essentially make the spending decisions on behalf of that country.

"One way this could be imagined," he said, "is for European authorities to have the right to veto some national economic policy decisions".

Question of trust

A vein running through this speech is the belief that governments can't be trusted with spending while officials can.

In this vision citizens and voters don't appear to have a seat at the table.

"Would it go too far if we envisaged," he said, "...giving euro area authorities a much deeper and authoritative say in the formation of the country's economic policies if these go harmfully astray?"

In some cases he sees European authorities taking decisions that would be compulsory for a country to follow.

'Interference'

Now, although some of these ideas were pitched way into the future some officials are already talking about taking decisions on behalf of Greece.

Banner on Athens finance ministry Protestors placed a banner calling for a general strike on the finance ministry building in Athens

Juergen Stark, who is the chief economist at the ECB, says that if Athens didn't take the necessary measures to restore its finances then it might be necessary for other parties to "interfere", as he put it.

"If countries in difficulty do not introduce the necessary adjustment measures," he said, "then interfering in their national policy could be a necessary way of ensuring the correct functioning of monetary union".

There are already daily protests in Greece against austerity measures that many see as being imposed from outside.

The suggestion that European officials might essentially dictate policies would be seen as a fundamental challenge to Greek democracy.

Unappetising change

Trichet's vision would require a change to the treaty. There is little appetite for that amongst member states.

Eight years were spent haggling over the Lisbon Treaty. Treaty change would trigger referenda and, in the present climate, it is not certain that Europe's voters would back more power shifting away from the member states.

It has long been said that you can't have monetary union without fiscal union. And you can't have fiscal union without political union.

Jean-Claude Trichet clearly believes that.

 
Gavin Hewitt Article written by Gavin Hewitt Gavin Hewitt Europe editor

UK's Lord Hill meets his EU critics

The UK nominee to oversee EU financial services, Lord Hill, reaches out to MEPs nervous about his business links, the BBC's Gavin Hewitt writes.

Read full article

More on This Story

Related Stories

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 71.

    Living in France I got quite an education. I saw just what a nasty little closed society it was. Traveling around Europe I found wherever I went it was the same. Those are the things that don't change. Nearly 40 years later it's still the same. If Barack Obama had been born in France instead of the US he'd have been lucky in life to rise above the level of building janitor.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 70.

    69 " the influx of immigrant groups who do not contribute to their new host societies to a large degree"

    They aren't given an opportunity to. It was clear when Moslems were burning down the banlieus of French cities that even if they had a PHD, if their name was Mohammed their CV's for job applications were thrown in the trash without even being looked at.They aren't permitted to integrate

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 69.

    "Most grow up to become responsible adults."

    What he are experiencing right now in Europe is completely unprecedented in history: the influx of immigrant groups who do not contribute to their new host societies to a large degree, most of whom are of muslim faith and reject their host societies and culture.
    There is plenty of statistical evidence, both welfare and crime statistics.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 68.

    67You can defend your plessed blot, your skewered isle all you like, I don't buy it.The UK and the rest of the Europe has a problem with its Moslem residents and minorities, the US does not. Americans of whatever ancestry be it Arabic like John Sununu
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Arab_Americans
    Mexican like Governor Richardson, or African like President Obama are full blooded Americans

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 67.


    Now want to tell me about disaffected Islamic youth in Europe?
    --
    What about your Mexican or black disaffected youths in America. Our European youths have flowered for thousands of years and are still going strong. Before muslim youths we had homegrown varieties like skinheads, teddy boys, football hooligans and generally obstreperous young men. Most grow up to become responsible adults.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 66.

    62"And the seeds of its own destruction? (according to Karl Marx's view of capitalism.)"

    We all contain the seeds of our own destruction within us whether as individuals or societies.Whether those seeds germinate, take root, and grow into full flowering plants depends on whether or not we have the wisdom to avoid nurturing them.Now want to tell me about disaffected Islamic youth in Europe?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 65.

    63 Durstiger writes:
    "I am also glad that our gold reserves are bunkered in the USA, safe and sound, far far away from the eurocrats"
    --------------
    Safer in the USA? I wouldn't bank on it.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 64.

    "The suggestion that European officials might essentially dictate policies would be seen as a fundamental challenge to Greek democracy."

    The sole idea is a declaration against democratic principles as the fundamental basis of the EU. Trichet let the cat ouf of the bag.
    It`s against everything the European project once stood for: friendship, free trade, peace and freedom amongst nations.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 63.

    It is a relief to know that the German Federal Constitutional Court has already ruled against any more shift of national soverein power to the EU.

    I am also glad that our gold reserves are bunkered in the USA, safe and sound, far far away from the eurocrats.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 62.

    61 Homer writes:
    "The US contains within itself and by societal structure everything it needs for happiness"
    --------------
    And the seeds of its own destruction? (according to Karl Marx's view of capitalism.)

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 61.

    55"Nor will printing money save America"

    True, all it will do is resolve the immediate financial crisis one time.What will save it is isolationism, protectionism, a return to self reliance, and making use of its vast resources both human and material.This is what made it so strong in the first place.The US contains within itself and by societal structure everything it needs for happiness.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 60.

    56 powermeer
    "Yep, but I'd never dare claiming that you are my mirror reflection. :-"
    ---
    Hope not. But have you worked out Mladics saluting arm yet?
    ---
    A collapse of the United States has been predicted in Old Europe for almost 200 years.
    ---
    Lets see, 200 years, 1810 roughly Battle of Waterloo. Europe wasn't then even aware of America's existence let alone predicting its demise.


  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 59.

    We are just months away from Economic meltdown! Turn November the proverbial is gonna hit the fan! Spain will be in bailout talks, Greece will have seceded, Ireland wil be talking about it, meanwhile bondyields accross the euro will rocket, don't forget bother in Portugal, Italy and Cyprus to! Then there's the US :-S It all makes the UK look relatively secure but we will get sucked in to a degree!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 58.

    They're using the crisis as a massive power grab!
    Gavin does make a good point i.e. that its all or nothing but there is no support for that but I think Gavin's over simplified it, it was never an optimal currency zone, even if they complete th 'project' it wont work, they still have the periphary. You can not solve a monetary problem with fiscal policies, it will not work!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 57.

    55.margaret howard
    7 Hours ago
    54 Homer Simpson writes:
    "...bailout will not save Greece."
    --------------
    Nor will printing money save America.




    A collapse of the United States has been predicted in Old Europe for almost 200 years.

    Soviet Union and its satellites have been predicting it's demise for most of XX century.

    And yet, somehow, miraculously, incredibly...:-)))))

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 56.

    MH: "You did know that in a mirror reflection right becomes left?"




    Yep, but I'd never dare claiming that you are my mirror reflection. :-)))

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 55.

    54 Homer Simpson writes:
    "...bailout will not save Greece."
    --------------
    Nor will printing money save America.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 54.

    The bail outs just buy time.They throw good taxpayer money after bad to stave off collapse for the bankers.Extending Greece's bailout will not save Greece.It's not clear that anything can.Like all other European countries it's based on false economic premises that are more pleasing to emotion than reflective of logic and experience.Economics of the welfare state don't work even in ordinary times

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 53.

    48 Government that is not of the people, by the people, and for the people is not democracy by any stretch of imagination. Whether it's the EU government or the individual governments in Europe they are of the elites, by the elites, and for the elites. There's no democracy there, only oligarchies. The UK's is as bad as any of them.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 52.

    Discussion EU finance ministers re “reprofiling”. What's point of buying CDS if you're not going to get paid? Law firms have been inundated with inquiries wanting to know where buyers stood IF voluntary restructuring. Advice: If a restructuring was voluntary, CDS would not trigger...
    Mr Papandreou: profiteering CDS were threatening to blow up whole countries. Now Greece may get its revenge.

 

Page 3 of 6

 

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.