The trials of reform in the eurozone

Nick Malkoutzis, Kathimerini (Greece), 09.12.2017

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Naturally, Greece concerned itself mostly with the visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week. The European Union, meanwhile, largely focused on the achievement of an initial agreement with the British government over Brexit on Friday. [...]

Janis Emmanouilidis, director of studies at the European Policy Center (EPC) in Brussels, suggests the Commission is involved in a fine balancing act which takes into account that some of the bolder proposals for eurozone reform, such as those made by Macron after he came to power, have been watered down recently but it also wants to “defend EU interests and its own interests.” He explains that there is concern in Brussels that the reforms eventually agreed, particularly with respect to the EMF, could weaken the Commission’s position in institutional terms.

The difficulty in agreeing how to make changes to the eurozone lies in satisfying those countries whose focus is mostly on the need for member-states to show responsibility and those that are calling for more solidarity. As such, the Commission’s proposals should not be seen as anything more than Brussels trying to influence the debate. “If there is a compromise on eurozone reform, it will be completely different to what is being proposed by the Commission,” Emmanouilidis tells Kathimerini English Edition. “The starting point will be the agreement between Paris and Berlin. If there is a Franco-German initiative that is not just symbolic, this will be the point of departure for eurozone reform.”

Apart from the continuing doubts regarding the identity and intentions of the next German government, it may also prove difficult to convince eurozone leaders to agree to any significant changes now that the single currency area is emerging from its period of economic difficulty and producing strong growth and employment figures.

There is clearly a long way to go in this discussion and from a Greek point of view, the government in Athens, according to Emmanouilidis, should pay particular attention to the ideas regarding the ESM/EMF and what the role of eurozone finance minister will entail.

“If this person is double-hatted, they may be mostly under the influence of the governments,” he says. “Imagine if you have someone who takes instructions from the powerful member-states and you do not have someone to balance that. Imagine how this could have affected things for Greece in 2015, or 2012, when it was in such a vulnerable position. It would not have been in the interests of a country like Greece.”

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