Fri, Dec 30, 2011 - Page 9 News List

The Europe of the future

In a world economy being reshaped by globalization and the rise of emerging economies, European integration is vital to continuing Europe’s prosperity and influence

By Jean-Claude Trichet

It is my firm conviction that the Europe of the future will embody a new type of institutional framework. What might it look like? Would it be too bold to envisage there being an EU finance ministry one day?

Any future European finance ministry would oversee the surveillance of both fiscal policies and competitiveness policies, and, when necessary, impose the “second stage.” Moreover, it would carry out the usual executive responsibilities regarding supervision and regulation of the EU financial sector. Finally, the ministry would represent the eurozone in international financial institutions.

Recent events have only strengthened the case for pursuing this approach. Europe’s leaders are discussing a Treaty change to create stronger economic governance at the EU level, and eurozone citizens are themselves calling for better supervision of the financial sector. Europe’s partners in the G20 look to Europe as a whole, rather than to individual member states, for solutions. So, increasingly, it seems that it would be too bold not to consider creating a European finance ministry at some point in the future.

However, an EU finance ministry would be only one component of Europe’s future institutional framework. One can imagine that, as various elements of sovereignty come to be shared, the European Council might evolve into the EU Senate, with the European Parliament becoming the lower house.

Similarly, the European Commission could become the executive, while the European Court of Justice takes on the role of an EU judiciary. And, given European countries’ long and proud history, I have no doubt that “subsidiarity” will play a major role in the future Europe — significantly greater than in current models of federation.

These are the personal views of a European citizen. The future of Europe is in the hands of its democracies, in the hands of Europe’s people. Our fellow citizens will decide the direction Europe is to take. They are the masters, but however Europe’s institutions take shape, a truly pan-European public debate is essential.

As Europeans, we identify deeply with our nations, traditions and histories. These are Europe’s roots. However, we also need to extend our branches more widely.

So, today, we should not look back. We must look forward — to opportunities of collective betterment, and to every country’s potential to be stronger and more prosperous in a well-functioning union.

Jean-Claude Trichet was president of the European Central Bank from 2003 to this year, and president of the Bank of France from 1993 to 2003. He is currently a member of the board of directors of the Bank for International Settlements.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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