Analysis: Sharing a vision may be Europe's biggest challenge

Tue Jul 3, 2012 6:16am EDT
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By Alan Wheatley, Global Economics Correspondent

LONDON (Reuters) - It's 2025 and Angela Merkel, Europe's first democratically elected president, is reviewing a crowded agenda for the new session of the increasingly powerful European Parliament.

The head of the European Monetary Fund is recommending a big increase in the by now well-established financial transactions and carbon taxes to fund emergency transfers from Brussels to the European Union's new Balkan members.

Merkel must also overcome lingering opposition to her proposal to re-admit Greece to the euro, 12 years after Athens pulled out of the single currency because of popular unrest over the austerity measures she had championed as German chancellor.

The ensuing financial cataclysm and economic depression galvanized the euro's remaining members to seek shelter in what many had dismissed as unthinkable - full political and fiscal union.

If that scenario sounds far-fetched, then so does the "vision statement" prepared by four EU presidents, the bloc's most senior officials, for last week's EU summit.

The paper, co-authored by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, said the euro zone should push ahead with a banking union and a budgetary union, possibly leading to the creation of a treasury office that could issue common debt.

Critically, they added, for the plan to succeed Europe's voters must rally behind such a surrender of sovereignty. The summit tasked Van Rompuy to deliver by the end of the year a firm timetable for fiscal union.

In Portugal, which has already had to accept strict external supervision of its budget as the price of a 78 billion euro bailout, some regard the prospect of handing greater fiscal power to Brussels as a natural evolution.   Continued...

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) and other delegates cast their ballots during the vote for ratification of the European Union fiscal pact in the Reichstag, the seat of the German lower house of parliament the Bundestag, in Berlin June 29, 2012. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer