Van Rompuy details eurozone budget rationale
(BRUSSELS) - EU President Herman Van Rompuy argued Friday that the 17-state eurozone could have a central 'Treasury' with a shared budget and raise funds on commercial bond markets.
In a report proposing closer economic integration, drawn up for a summit of European Union leaders next week, Van Rompuy spelt out the rationale behind plans to take the eurozone potentially beyond a purely inter-governmental structure.
Van Rompuy said the hypothetical central budget for the eurozone -- home to some 340 million people as distinct from the full, 27-state EU, including non-euro economies like Britain and Poland -- would need fine-tuning between now and a December summit.
Depending on how these ideas proceed, leaders may have to embark on a fresh, controversial round of EU treaty changes, with the risk that London, especially, might call a referendum to redefine its relationship with the Brussels-based bloc.
"One of the functions of such a new fiscal capacity could be to facilitate adjustments to country-specific shocks by providing for some degree of absorption at the central level," Van Rompuy wrote.
Another key aim would be to "facilitate structural reforms that improve competitiveness and potential [economic] growth."
The eurozone this week signed into life its new financial firewall, the European Stability Mechanism, a rescue fund ultimately worth 700 billion euros ($910 billion), which Van Rompuy said was for emergencies.
Long-term, the former Belgian premier also opened a door towards pooled eurozone government issuance of bonds, or borrowings.
He said a key aspect of the centralised eurozone budget would eventually be the capacity to borrow against it.
Overall, the idea is that national governments would strike deals with central eurozone supervisors -- legal commitments like those enacted in Greece and elsewhere that would theoretically make the eurozone a more homogenous territory.
These could involve loss of sovereignty.
According to one EU official, it's about "convergence between national economic policies."
In the view of Brussels strategists, such a plan could help the eurozone to "sustain assymetric shocks," meaning dangers posed by less competitive parts than Germany.
A big question will be to what extent Berlin might compromise on over-competitiveness by comparison with Greece or Spain, for example.
A debate going into the summit is whether this system -- albeit on the drawing-board -- would be imposed all round, or only on states that have consistently failed to balance books.