German Finance Minister Wants to Change EU Treaties

Schaeuble seeks to limit power of non-eurozone countries over eurozone affairs

(Photo: AP) (Photo: AP)

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is advocating changes to European Union (EU) treaties that will allow the EU’s monetary affairs commissioner to reject national budgets and prevent non-eurozone countries, like Britain, from nixing eurozone-only measures.

Bloomberg reported Tuesday that Schaeuble has discussed his proposals with Chancellor Angela Merkel, and he wants the changes as early as next year. Just Monday, Reuters reported that Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, proposed that Britain opt out of more than 130 EU regulations, with one of his allies proposing that the U.K. leave the EU altogether.

Schaeuble’s proposals are sure to rankle Cameron, who is heading in the opposite direction and already vetoed a eurozone-only EU austerity treaty last year. In the end the treaty was approved without Britain. But Schaeuble is determined to boost the EU’s powers while lessening those of national governments, as well as making the EU Parliament more potent.

“We must take bigger steps toward fiscal union now,” Schaeuble was quoted saying. “We could be ready by December to call a convention” to put together changes for the treaties.

A Brussels meeting of European leaders scheduled for Oct. 18–19 will review a report by EU President Herman Van Rompuy on a number of means to strengthen monetary union among member states. According to Schaeuble, his own proposals for closer fiscal unity were the subject of about two hours of discussion at a Luxembourg meeting last week of European finance ministers.

Schaeuble’s proposals include conferring on the EU monetary affairs commissioner the right to reject budgets of member nations, without the need to win support from fellow commissioners, should those budgets violate stability rules—either at the draft stage or in execution.

Another measure Schaeuble advocates is barring lawmakers from countries not using the euro, such as Britain, from voting in the European Parliament on matters that apply to the eurozone and on matters that relate to the so-called Schengen area of liberalized travel within Europe. Only eurozone countries would be permitted to vote on those issues, Schaeuble said.

He was quoted saying, “We have to include the Parliament more right from the start,” and added, “We want to go further” on integrating Europe.

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