No EU economic and monetary union without proper rules enforcement

The EMU does not need more flexibility, it needs the commission to strictly apply the rules 'without fear of large member states', argues Markus Ferber.

By Markus Ferber MEP

Markus Ferber (DE, EPP) is a vice chair of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Tax Matters (FISC)

22 Jun 2015

Ongoing discussions on Greece's future in the eurozone are arguably the greatest immediate challenge facing the the economic and monetary union (EMU). 

To be successful, a currency union first and foremost needs stability. This means stability in prices: a low and stable inflation rate, stability in exchange rates and a stock of members that regard their membership in the currency union as a given. 

Therefore, we should work hard on paving the way for Greece to stay part of the common currency. 


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However, a currency union also needs predictability and a set of rules that are obeyed and thoroughly enforced. The eurozone has a strict set of rules, but in the past few years adherence to these has become a serious problem. 

Arguably, Athens' current situation is the result of ignorance regarding the common rules and, unfortunately, the new Greek government appears to be making few attempts to play by the rules in the future. 

This is why the Eurogroup is right to not give in to unjustified demands. As desirable as it would be to keep Greece in the eurozone, this must not happen if it means constant and severe violation of the framework we have set ourselves.

In any case, there lies a bigger problem beyond the current negotiations with Athens: the enforcement of the rules provided in the framework of economic governance. 

The stability and growth pact is at the heart of this framework and it provides strict rules, as well as a certain degree of flexibility. 

Unfortunately, lately the commission has been very quick to apply flexibility, but is hesitant to apply the actual rules, as evidenced by the repeated extensions it has granted France to bring its budget in line with the stability and growth pact. 

The commission has started accepting mere political statements of intent as proof of genuine reform - a very disturbing development, which the council's legal service has rightly questioned.

Therefore, the current debate on the future of the EMU - within the context of the so-called 'five presidents' report - must not focus on introducing yet more flexibility into the existing system, but rather on how to make it work better.

Two quick and easy fixes come to mind, both relating to the commission's role. First, the commission needs to strictly apply the rules laid out in the stability and growth pact without any political considerations and without fear of large member states. 

Second, the country-specific recommendations provided in the framework of the European semester need to be taken seriously by the member states. Currently, only a fraction of those recommendations are implemented at all, while the commission just stands on the sidelines and watches. 

Both changes would be easy and quick to implement and could therefore be a very good starting point to improve the framework of economic governance by making it a proper rule-bound system. 

 

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