UPDATE 08/09/2017: Western Democracy was born in Athens. The Greek city-state might not have been the first to experiment with democratic government (and only free male citizens could vote, excluding perhaps 70% of the population), but the idea of democracy took hold here.
So, it’s no accident that French President Emmanuel Macron (never one to pass up a good photo opportunity) chose the Pnyx in Athens as the site to deliver a key speech on the future of Europe. The Pnyx, a small hillock with a stunning view of the Acropolis in the background, was the very place where Athenian citizens met to cast their votes. This was where Emmanuel Macron chose to pitch his vision for a European renaissance.
Macron argued that democracy and sovereignty were at threat, both from the inevitable forces of globalisation and from the resulting backlash of anti-globalisation. He believes that monetary integration in Europe cannot continue without fiscal integration, and therefore wants the EU to establish a common Eurozone treasury, overseen by a joint EU finance minister, with greater democratic controls and accountability to voters. He has promised to publish a “road map” later this year setting out his proposals in greater detail.
ORIGINAL 03/07/2017: The pressure is on for Emmanuel Macron. France has given his political movement, La République En Marche!, a clear mandate in the National Assembly. Now it’s his turn to deliver economic reforms and jobs, bringing down the country’s eyewateringly-high unemployment rate. He will also need to start delivering on his ambitious promises when it comes to Europe.
During the election campaign, Macron pledged to champion deeper eurozone integration as a way to kickstart Europe’s economy. He has called for a common eurozone budget to promote growth through investment, supervised by a eurozone finance minister. Political oversight would be provided by a new eurozone parliament made up of existing MEPs from euro countries. Macron believes that if these reforms are not undertaken then the single currency will collapse within a decade.
The fine details of the Macron plan have yet to be unveiled. However, there are encouraging noises coming from Berlin, where senior figures within the government have been declaring themselves open to the idea of comprehensive eurozone reforms (providing, of course, that France can overhaul its own economy first). Still, the idea of turning the eurozone into a “transfer union”, where rich countries routinely and automatically send money to poorer countries, is unlikely to go down well with the German voting public. One solution being mooted is to install a German as head of the European Central Bank, but it’s not clear how that would play in those European countries (particularly in the South) already uncomfortable with the amount of economic and political clought wielded by Germany.
Then, of course, there are the non-eurozone countries to worry about. The traditionally eurosceptic Brits are currently on their way out the Brexit door, so are unlikely to block deeper integration. Yet by focusing his reforms exclusively on the eurozone, Mssr. Macron’s plans look suspiciously like a “two-speed europe” model, with non-eurozone countries stuck on the outside looking in. Will they, like the Germans, also want reassurances?
Could Emmanuel Macron’s eurozone reforms save the EU? Does the eurozone need its own treasury and finance minister? Would a eurozone parliament help provide political control? And if major reforms aren’t carried out, will the euro collapse within a decade? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!