Euro Zone to Speak with One Voice? EU Commissioner Wants Far-Reaching New Powers for Brussels

The EU's monetary affairs commissioner has called for far-reaching new powers for the European Commission. He would like Brussels to have greater control over economic policy in euro zone countries -- and even wants its members to speak with one voice on the international stage.

Opponents of the European Union claim that Brussels already has too much influence over the internal affairs of the EU's 27 member states. They are unlikely to be thrilled by the news that a leading EU official is calling for far-reaching new powers for the EU's executive branch when it comes to member states' economic affairs -- and even foreign policy.

EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia  wants the European Commission to have more clout in all areas of economic policy. In the future, the Commission should be able to supervise and coordinate reform efforts in the countries of the euro zone, in order to promote more competition in Europe's product and services markets, including the market for financial services. The proposals are contained in a report marking the 10-year anniversary of the euro which Almunia will present on Wednesday.

In the report, which has been seen by SPIEGEL, Almunia says the Commission should also have a hand in determining "adequate wage developments, flexibility and security on labor markets." He also recommends setting up an early warning system for economic crises within the euro zone, so that counter-measures can be taken in time.

According to the new proposals, the Commission would also represent the countries of the euro zone in international organizations such as the G-7 group of the leading industrialized countries and the International Monetary Fund, instead of individual countries representing themselves. "Unfortunately, the euro area's external representation remains fragmented and the coordination among euro-area countries (is) insufficient," Almunia feels. "The existence of a single monetary and exchange rate policy in the euro area ... makes it natural and efficient for the euro area to speak with a single voice," the report reads. "This would strengthen the area's international negotiating power."

In the report, the commissioner expresses satisfaction with the euro's achievements so far. "Overall, European Monetary Union has brought the macroeconomic stability it was hoped to bring -- and more."

The growth rate in the euro zone over its 10 years of existence has been high and some 16 million new jobs have been created, the report states. In addition, the inflation rate in the euro zone has been -- under the guidance of the European Central Bank  (ECB), which is currently headed by Jean-Claude Trichet -- lower than before monetary union. Fluctuations in the exchange rate with the dollar are also less than was the case before the introduction of the euro.

The euro zone currently consists of 15 EU member states, including Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia and Finland, who have adopted the euro as their currency. The ECB's aim is to keep average inflation in the euro zone below 2 percent in the medium term.


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