EU proposes ways to shore up euro over coming decade

Published 31.05.2017 23:55

The European Union's executive outlined Wednesday a series of measures it thinks could shore up the euro currency in the coming decade, ideas that were raised - and often rejected - during the eurozone's debt crisis.

In a wide-ranging paper designed for discussion, the European Commission said there is a "growing awareness" that further steps are needed to complete the euro's financial architecture.

The euro's shortcomings really came to the fore during the debt crisis that affected many of its members, notably Greece, from 2010 on. The eurozone's member states and its main bodies, like the European Central Bank, found themselves firefighting the crisis and trying various solutions. Though new institutions have been created, such as a bailout fund, and there is now more coordination among the 19 eurozone countries over policy, the Commission thinks more needs to be done, quickly, to put the currency on a surer footing.

"We cannot and should not wait for another crisis," said Valdis Dombrovskis, the EU commissioner responsible for the euro. In the paper, the Commission presents many ideas, both for the short- and long-term. Among them is the creation of a "European safe asset" - a financial instrument for the common issuance of debt - sometime between 2020 and 2025. The Commission acknowledged that developing such an asset raises a number of legal, political and institutional questions that would need to be explored. The question of sharing debt was heavily debated during the years when Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus required financial bailouts.

Germany, for one, has been opposed to debt sharing because of worries it could weaken incentives for individual countries to pursue sound fiscal policies. In essence, Germany would be putting up its own hard-won economic reputation to the benefit of others, diluting its own position.

Other ideas posited include getting euro countries to act as one within the International Monetary Fund, the creation of a European-type IMF as well as a eurozone Treasury and finance minister. "The euro is already a symbol of unity and a guarantee of stability for Europeans," said Pierre Moscovici, the Commission's top economy official. "We need now to make it a vehicle for shared prosperity." The paper is part of the EU's attempt to reinvigorate itself following Britain's vote to leave the bloc. French President Emmanuel Macron has expressed his desire to bolster the euro's resilience following years of crisis. In passionate closing remarks, the paper argued that it is "time to put pragmatism before dogma, to put bridge-building before individual mistrust."

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