What’s up with the European Minister of Economy and Finance?

, by Sotiriou Sotiris

What's up with the European Minister of Economy and Finance?
Flags in front of the European Commission’s Berlaymont building in Brussels. © Cancillería del Ecuador // Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In this article I would like to present President Juncker’s proposal about a European Minister of Economy and Finance and show that yes, there are some difficulties, but the creation of this post would strengthen the Union politically and mainly economically.

The current year, 2017, is a milestone in the history of the European Union. 25th March was the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, which founded the European Economic Community - a precursor to the current EU; but 2017 also saw the first member-state activating Article 50, and preparing to leave the Union. This country’s insistence on joining the union back in the 1970s proves the value of the EU to Great Britain, which was not even one of the founding members. However, the UK decided by referendum to abandon the Union and to gain complete independence again without compromises and concessions.

Juncker’s State of the Union

On 13 September 2017, Jean-Claude Juncker presented his views, ideas and visions for the Union’s future. The famous State of the Union is the one speech in the European Parliament concerning a wide range of issues with the aim of optimizing the situation of the Union.

President Juncker proposed as a central target for the Union to become stronger, more democratic and more united. He also responded to issues like the refugee crisis, both to the EU’s dealing with this situation and also proposed preventive measures. Furthermore, he mentioned humanitarian aid to African countries, the aging of our continent, and the importance of immigration. Also, he emphasised the importance of trade and the EU’s trade power, cybersecurity and cyber-attack defence, he promoted innovation and creativity regarding technology and the digital age, and he pointed out European solidarity and the importance of the European Solidarity Corps and its volunteers.

An EU Finance Minister: Daft or Dream-like?

The most important of his ideas and proposals is considered to be the pioneering reference to the establishment of a new European Minister of Economy and Finance. In his speech, Jucker expressed desire for a stronger and more powerful Economic and Monetary Union, which could be achieved by a position like this, yielding more effective and centralised measures.

The significant role of this Minister would be to pursue the general interest of the Union and the euro-area economy globally, to coordinate the economic and monetary policies of all the Member States, to cooperate closely with the European Central Bank and with the countries within and outside of the Eurozone and to stabilise and strengthen the Union’s economy with reforms. Undoubtedly, it is important to retain democratic legitimacy, therefore this minister should be accountable to the European Parliament, the immediately elected EU body. The Minister of Economy and Finance would outline their plans and intentions to the Parliament, legitimising his ideas with the Parliament’s approval. Furthermore, they will caucus with each minister of Finance of the member states in order to clarify their central aims and to try to strengthen the Union with a single financial policy. This could strengthen the Eurozone’s capability to face the economies of the Great Powers such as the USA, Russia, China, and the emerging BRICS nations. The EU should follow developments in the international political and economic scene in order not to lose its strong position. A single economic policy undoubtedly will improve the bonds among member-states and will create better results for the whole union.

Unfortunately, the implementation of this vision, this innovative idea, is not easy or simple. The European Union is not a sovereign state, but a union of 27 different member states which coexist in order to fulfill common goals. That means that each member state has its own economy, its own economic system with different laws, taxation, budgets and surpluses or deficits. Every state differs from the others regarding economic issues. Any single treatment would not be simple, and compromises would have to be made.

The establishment of the Eurogroup was a big step for the European economy, but was only established after widespread criticism. So, a joint minister would be a difficult and almost unbelievable step without consensus and strong cooperation. Moreover, we should not ignore the fact that there will be many citizens that will be opposed to the existence of a common minister, believing that their country’s interests would be damaged. They feel like they would be losing a part of their national sovereignty.

The path of the future EU is in our hands. Ideas like that proposal for the Minister of Economy and Finance could optimise the economic situation inside the Eurozone and make it stronger on the global scene. All European citizens ought to fight for the Union, as it fights for us, representing us as citizens, in order to bring about prosperity, peace, strong cooperation, and security.

In conclusion, this new principle might not be easily accepted, but surely its establishment would strengthen the Union internally, as it would connect the European markets and economies and merge them into a single one; and it would remove much of the influence of the International Monetary Fund on European financial policy. Thus, the anticipated benefits would improve the Eurozone’s financial situation and undoubtedly an economic connection like that could lead to a federal standard that will strengthen the Union and make member-states more united. To sum up, this innovative idea of Juncker’s can accomplish his further ambitious goals, and hopefully we should soon be able to create a stronger Europe, not just for member states or the EU in general, but for its citizens.

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