Austrian chancellor backs EU treaty change: report

Sun Dec 4, 2011 6:54am EST
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VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann backs changes to the European Union treaty that would create a political and economic powerhouse even at the cost of relinquishing some national sovereignty, he told a Sunday newspaper.

The Social Democrat told Kurier he also saw room for the European Central Bank to step up purchases of distressed euro zone countries' bonds once members of the currency union put in place measures to steady their finances and cut debt.

Faymann, who governs in an uneasy coalition with the conservative People's Party (OVP), would have to convince a skeptical Austrian public to support sweeping changes to the EU treaty in a vote he said could take up to four years to hold.

"I assume that in the medium to long term we will build a common Europe in which we will relinquish responsibilities. In a referendum I would vote for it and lobby for it," he was quoted as saying before a key EU summit on Friday.

"I believe that we are stronger if we gradually build up this common Europe than if we withdraw into isolationism and tell ourselves the schilling (former currency) will come back at some stage and we are 27 countries again that act alone."

Faymann said Austrians would not have to vote on any EU treaty change that simply required countries to agree to balance their budgets and then stick to the fiscal rules.

But any change that let the European Commission intervene in national budgets would trigger a referendum in Austria in a process he said would take 2-4 years to organize.

He reiterated he could well imagine a system that let each country set its own budget but have the European Court of Justice monitor this, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also suggested.

MIND THE GAP   Continued...