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Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle: “Amending the European Treaties within a year”

13.10.2011 - Interview

Westerwelle: “Europe needs these rights to intervene in the national budgets of those countries that deviate from the path of fiscal virtue.”

The EU needs to have real rights to intervene – Article by Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, published in the Tagesspiegel on 13 October 2011.

For Europe, the current debt crisis is the most difficult test of the last sixty years. Our crisis management in terms of financial policy aims at extinguishing the flames of the fire currently threatening the house of Europe. That is indeed necessary, but it is not enough. We must now also find solutions that show the way to the future. One of the lessons to be learned from the history of European integration is that only the great pressure of an exacerbated crisis produces the momentum necessary for political quantum leaps forward.

Thus the time is ripe to address the Treaties’ current deficiencies in construction and to continue Europe’s development towards a political union.

The European Union is the most successful peace project of all time. The European single market remains the foundation of our prosperity especially in the era of globalization. However, new efforts must be made if we are to continue to play a role in the concert of the new centres of power. We must put our European house in order before we can turn our attention to the world.

Even Germany would not be able to meet the challenges of globalization on its own in the long run. Renationalization is a historic mistake. The answer to the crisis is more Europe, not less.

The debt crisis has indeed shown that the stability rules were not binding enough. They could not prevent the emergence of the debt crisis. We thus need to enter into a true union of stability.

That is not possible without real rights to intervene. Europe needs these rights to intervene in the national budgets of those countries that deviate from the path of fiscal virtue. Many scenarios are possible. Suggestions have already been made: could the European Court of Justice not be appealed to if the stability rules are violated? Do we want a European “austerity commissioner”, who monitors compliance with the rules? Or should that be the task of the EU Commission as a whole? How and under what conditions would European rights to intervene be applied?

We need a discussion on all these aspects that is both broadly conceived and fundamental, but also targeted and oriented toward quick decisions. Beyond the day-to-day struggle with the crisis, a fundamental answer must be found.

There is no other way: effectively changing the stability rules means amending the European Treaties. Relevant articles such as Article 126 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which deals with the excessive deficit procedure, must be made stricter in light of the lessons learned from the crisis. According to Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union, that requires that a Convention be convened. The debates should be held publicly, and they should be held where the European Treaties say they should be held, bringing together representatives of the national parliaments and governments, of the European Parliament and of the European Commission.

There is great pressure to act. We can therefore not afford to let the process get out of hand. We are indeed talking about a fundamental discussion on how to construct the union of stability. However, this process must be limited in terms of time and scope. It is about the stability union and I think it is possible that within one year we can achieve results that could be adopted.

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