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Desperately Seeking Europeans

, by Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, Michael Theurer, Nathalie Griesbeck, Sylvie Goulard, Translated by Sarah Todd

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The Franco-German motor needs a serious revision, failing which Europe will not get out of the crisis. Such is the call issued by four Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) of the Liberal and Democrat Group (ALDE).

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Images matter in politics, and so does content. Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand holding hands on the battlefield in Verdun or Helmut Schmidt and Valéry Giscard-d’Estaing side by side, trusting. And now? What remains of this bond? At the moment, let us admit that there are certain difficulties and that we are lacking images for history books. On the fundamental question – how to get out of the Euro crisis? – the two countries have moved away from each other, and yet it is also a confidence crisis for markets and citizens.

During their meeting on June 14th, Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel declared themselves in favour of an “economic government” of 27 members, while at the same time admitting the necessity for extraordinary meetings between the 16 members of the Eurozone. This is a good compromise. What is needed now is to know what is meant by economic “government”.

Differences between the French and the Germans in European matters are not really new. For years, the French and German politicians have not quite presented the Euro in the same way to their respective peoples. Whereas on the German side one promoted the fight against inflation, monetary stability and the impossibility that the creation of the Euro would lead to financial transfers from one country to another, the French were told of a currency which would be an instrument to serve growth and reinforce Europe’s strategic influence. It is now time to bring these two visions closer together.

We should use this turning point to strategic purposes; Europe has always made progress through crises

We should use this turning point to strategic purposes; Europe has always made progress through crises. The Euro crisis also presents us with the opportunity to make a significant step on the way to a united Europe. That is why the Chancellor and the President of the Republic must take an initiative. For us French and German MEPs, the ten following points make up the base of a recovered convergence. It is together that the French and Germans should draw their inspiration from them and put them into practice.

1. The Euro is our common currency. We must defend it, without any hesitation nor reluctance, as European patriots. The Euro has a strategic function in globalisation, in particular to face emerging powers like China and India. The Euro strengthens Europe and our economy.

2. A tight convergence between the French and Germans is one of the key conditions to the Euro’s success. Going alone in matters of political and economic policy must therefore be out of the question for both partners.

3. The Euro has enabled our economies to prosper; the existence of the single currency increases transparency on the markets and strengthens the framework in which the economic activity spreads out. The single currency clearly makes exchanges easier in the eurozone, which contributes to the creation and consolidation of employments. Control of public finances is an essential condition to the eurozone members’ competitiveness in the world.

4. The Euro must be a stability anchor for the whole zone; that is why the fight against inflation has to remain our first goal. It is the only way to preserve the future generations’ choices without burdening them with our debts. For this reason, the Central Bank must be strictly protected from any kind of pressure.

5. In order to live on, the Euro community needs its members to be committed and faithful to their commitments; they should integrate them in their way of seeing, with due care and attention.

6. A single currency is possible only if all the partners accept mutual control of their accounting books and consultation on their budget policy, which the national Parliaments must be associated to. They should agree on common principles and consult each other regularly.

7. In the absence of a real political Union, we must link to one another the political decisions of the eurozone members in economic and fiscal matters. The concept of “economic government” is still unclear. The infringements to the Stability and Growth Pact must be automatically and immediately dealt with by the Council, with no interference from the concerned country.

8. An external representation of the Eurozone, in particular to the IMF, should be put into place as quickly as possible.

9. At the same time, we ask for heightened control and surveillance powers, between members of the Eurozone and at the Commission.

10. A mutual help mechanism can be necessary for the safeguard of the Euro. To this end, we need a stability control mechanism which strictly conditions possible aids to the respect of the rules, in order to avoid encouraging excessive behaviours. This mechanism must also include a procedure allowing to organise the failing of a state.

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P.S.

Image: Light Bulb, source: The European Commission’s Audiovisual Service 01/03/2004

The four authors of this article are members of the Group of Liberals and Democrats for Europe of the European Parliament. Sylvie Goulard and Nathalie Griesbeck are French and Jorgo Chatzimarkakis and Michael Theurer are German.

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