One year after his election, and following the political uncertainties in Germany that delayed the formation of a new government, President Macron still wants to define a roadmap for the reform of the Eurozone.
However, Northern European countries are not in favor of any of Emmanuel Macron’s proposals, opposing the pooling of risks in order to absorb the shocks.
If, according to them, the Eurozone should focus on finalizing the banking union and reducing risks, then the mobilization of European funding dedicated to the Eurozone and the institutional reform advocated by France appear as distant prospects.
26 september 2017
Initiative for Europe - speech by Emmanuel Macron for a sovereign, united, democratic Europe
6 march 2018
Joint letter from 8 Northern European countries advocating for the compliance with the Stability and Growth Pact
23 march 2018
Candidate Macron made the diagnosis of a Eurozone burdened by a lack of coordination regarding its economic policies and a lack of complementarity of national strategies, which prevent any capacity for a common reaction to shocks.
Similarly, while debates on the Eurozone and more generally on the construction of Europe are old and recurrent, they are still perceived as technical and inaccessible by European citizens.
His campaign, resolutely optimistic about the benefits of the European construction and of France’s belonging to the Eurozone, focused on creating new foundations for a Europe of growth:
- By creating a common budget to the Eurozone with 3 specific functions:
- Guaranteeing investments for the future
- Allowing urgent financial assistance (with the idea that the European Stablility Mechanism (ESM) should become permanent, for example by turning into a European Monetary Fund (EMF)
- Responding to economic crises by its counter-cyclical nature.
- By establishing a position of Economic and Finance Minister of the Eurozone, and which would operate under the control of a Parliament of the Eurozone.
From Emmanuel Macron’s perspective, the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) lacks political impulse and budgetary tools.
Before reaching an agreement, Emmanuel Macron reached a consensus on the diagnosis: the Eurozone suffers today from the absence of political leadership.
In his speech at the Sorbonne on 26 September 2017, President Macron emphasized the difficulties encountered in initiating major reforms in the Eurozone. However, by putting the emphasis on institutions, he took the risk of relegating the cultural and sovereign aspects of a common currency and of moving the debate away from citizens once more.
Emmanuel Macron has maintained the same political trajectory since his election:
- The deepening of cooperation could be done by creating a sub-group of States that would engage in growth-promoting topics (digital, energy, taxation, etc.)
- Strengthening investment at the European level should be prioritized over pooling and transfers.
The absence of a German government until March 2018 delayed the implementation of the reforms desired by the French president.
The proposal to appoint an Economy and Finance Minister of the Eurozone, reporting to a sub-group of the European Parliament, or even an ad hoc Parliament of the Eurozone, appears to be unrealistic for now. Emmanuel Macron seems to have understood that pragmatism was essential and that his sometimes too-determined approach would make him lose part of his political appeal.
While he explicitly stated his ambitions for the Eurozone in his speech at the Sorbonne, the question of the concrete follow-up given to these projects now arises, both vis-à-vis other Member States and the European institutions, in the context of Brexit.
The French President highlights the reforms undertaken at national level to legitimize his European ambitions and gain credibility in the eyes of his neighbors. Because it is also and above all through national reforms that the economies of the Eurozone will be able to converge towards an optimal monetary zone. However, he considers it necessary to extend current and future initiatives to other Member States such as Spain or Italy, which stand out for their voluntarism. On the other hand, German public opinion should not be taken for granted by the very idea of the Franco-German couple, nor by the irreversibility of the monetary construction.
The idea of a common Euro area budget is not novel. It has been acclaimed since the launch of the single currency and would make it possible to accompany European monetary policy with a broad fiscal policy, thus ensuring a better coordinated policy mix.
The countries of Northern Europe have positioned themselves in a joint letter, published on 12 March 2018, as a response to the Franco-German positions. From their point of view, European integration is not the same as risk-sharing or mutualizing, but respecting a set of common rules, starting with those set out in the Stability and Growth Pact. According to the signatory countries, monetary cooperation would have gone further than simply guaranteeing monetary stability, the principle on which the European Central Bank (ECB) is based. The ECB’s independence should thus be reaffirmed in a context where budgetary dominance in crisis management could gradually give way to a monetary approach that is more independent of post-crisis management.
The priority is, therefore, to move from an approach of mutual protection to an approach aimed at strengthening and defending the discourse of a Europe as an economic power, based on a stable common currency. It is thus appropriate to support the Euro on the international stage and to bring it closer to the citizens who use it (citizens’ conventions can serve as an interface).
The reform of the Eurozone must involve speeches and actions that do not place the technical provisions of a purely institutional reform at the forefront. It will only succeed if it is part of a political vision, which recognizes that culture and knowledge are the best guarantors of the sustainability of the European project and the single currency.