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

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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.

 
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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 111.

    Glad to see the mask coming off. Write a constitution, F and NL say "no" so they repackage it so only IRL must vote, twice if they get it wrong. These ppl don't take "no". After the Irish Lisbon1 there were assurances of independence re fiscal &some social issues. Sarko is breaking that promise, Trichet plans to. Any EU vote/repeat vote will fail in IRL as the people shout LIAR LIAR PANTS ON FIRE

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 110.

    Re #108 "Incidentally, we have universal healthcare over here"




    Like this?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13548222

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 109.

    Re #109

    I'll let our Canadian friends to answer that. :-)))

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 108.

    MarcusAureliusII
    25"Makes you wonder why millions of people would give their right arm to live here!"

    As Europeans flee to the US and Canada

    I know some people who have just moved back from the US and Canada, because of the poor standard of living, high gun crime in the US and rubbish holiday allowance. Incidentally, we have universal healthcare over here, and lots of Americans live here

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 107.

    105 powermeer writes:
    "Margaret, All I can suggest is for you to spend some time in any U.S. jail. And then in any Chinese, Cuban, Iranian, N. Korean, Syrian, Venezuelan or Vietnamese one. And judge for yourself."
    ----------------
    Remember the Soviet computer (103) not answering a straightforward question re Venezuelan Prison Watch?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 106.

    Nope, margaret,: I don't think it's an American jail.


    As a matter of fact, according to BBC it's not a jail at all:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13548222

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 105.

    Margaret, All I can suggest is for you to spend some time in any U.S. jail.

    And then in any Chinese, Cuban, Iranian, N. Korean, Syrian, Venezuelan or Vietnamese one.

    And judge for yourself.

    I'm sure that being a fair and objective person you'd be prepared to conduct such a comparative research?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 104.

    103 powermeer writes:
    "Yes. That you sound just like that Soviet computer.
    Using "bait@switch" technics rather than answer a straightforward question."
    ----------
    Yes it does! So could you answer the original question and tell us more about brutal prison conditions in the USA as opposed to conditions in Venezuelan prisons in 2010 you posted at *94?






  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 103.

    Yes. That you sound just like that Soviet computer.

    Using "bait@switch" technics rather than answer a straightforward question.

    I assume you don't want to adress an issue of conditions in prisons of such countries like Venezuela and Cuba.

    Let alone jails and labor camps in China, Iran, N. Korea, Russia, Syria.

    Since any enemy of U.S. is , it seems, your friend.

    Am I wrong?



  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 102.

    98 powermeer writes:
    "So let me remind you that I asked: Wanna comment on Hugo Chavez's humanitarian record"
    -------------
    No, you posted a report on Venezuelen Prison Watch. I replied with a report on American prison conditions. Any comments on that?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 101.

    97 Homer writes:
    "In truth, the greatest brutality perpetrated against prisoners in the US by far is by other prisoners."
    -------------
    And to counter that you employ thuggish prison warders who torture them a bit more. I must admit I don't quite catch the thinking behind that! I thought part of a prison sentence was supposed to improve their misserable lives and make better men of them.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 100.

    Greeks need to look after their own best interests , before submitting to heavy pressure from the EU to take a further bailout and run up an ever bigger debt , they will never be able to repay . The EU is not interested in the future well being of Greece and the Greek people ; but only saving the Euro . I would advise Greece to default and return to the Drakma . People power may win the day !!!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 99.

    26 comments in the last 24 hours, of which 16 from PMK, and the others from 3 more commentators. None of which is really on topic...

    Anyway, Trichet is going soon, and is remembered in France as the man who stuck to the strong Franc in the early 90s. So I am not surprised by his 'vision' now. The question is whether the Greeks go the Islandic way (refusing the international dictates), or not.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 98.

    Re #96 mh

    Acc. to an old joke when a new Soviet supercomputer was asked "How many pairs of shoes were manufactured in the USSR in a year per one citizen" the machine hesitated for while and then replied:

    "BUT in U.S.A. they discriminate against blacks!"

    So let me remind you that I asked: Wanna comment on Hugo Chavez's humanitarian record?

    Or on the record of Castro Bros in Cuban Gulag?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 97.

    96"Does such barbaric abuse inside U.S. jails explain the horrors that were committed in Iraq?"

    See, now that proves we don't discriminate.In truth, the greatest brutality perpetrated against prisoners in the US by far is by other prisoners. Many are parts of gangs and so incourageable they really should have been executed for the safety of society.Horrifying idea that they'd ever get out.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 96.

    94 pmk
    Americas Brutal Prisons

    Savaged by dogs, Electrocuted With Cattle Prods, Burned By Toxic Chemicals, Does such barbaric abuse inside U.S. jails explain the horrors that were committed in Iraq?

    They are some of the victims of wholesale torture inside the U.S prison system that we uncovered during our investigation for C4. In the most extreme cases, you are seeing young men dying.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 95.

    Instead of a comment on a European banker in the U.S.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-13667064

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 94.

    "Of the three prisoners who died in the past few weeks, forensic tests suggested at least two of them had been beaten and drowned.

    The campaign group Venezuelan Prison Watch says 476 inmates died inside Venezuela's prisons in 2010. (BBC)


    Wanna comment on Hugo Chavez's humanitarian record, margaret howard?

    Or would you rather concentrate on the record of Castro Bros in Cuban Gulag?

  • Comment number 93.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 92.

    Potential exposure of US banks to Portugal is a quite remarkable $41bn, and their total exposure to Portugal is $46bn.

    For Ireland, US banks' potential exposure is $54bn and in the case of Spain, the actual and potential exposure of US banks is a knee-trembling $179bn.


    Was it Forrest Gumps' mother who said "Stupid is what stupid does"?

 

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