A ‘Northern Alliance’ has emerged against the Eurozone’s political integration.
Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and the two non-Eurozone members – Sweden and Denmark – issued on Tuesday a joint statement opposing the cluster of reforms proposed by President Emmanuel Macron and backed by the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
“The discussion on the deepening of the European Monetary Union should find a consensus on ‘need to haves,’ instead of focusing on ‘nice to haves’,” the statement read.
The statement goes on to say that the EMU should focus on a rules-based system, in line with the political views of the former German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble. A stronger Euro, the statement reads, requires “first and foremost decisive actions at the national level and full compliance with our “common rules.”
Last week, Luxembourg’s finance minister, Pierre Gramegna, said that the political integration of the Eurozone was not a priority, including the proposal by President Juncker for a Minister of Finance of the Eurozone, directly accountable to the European Parliament.
The joint statement dismisses the French federalist proposals, hours after Angela Merkel in Germany secured a deal with Social Democrats that will see her leading a fourth government. The German Chancellor has publicly committed to supporting President Macron’s ambitious reform agenda, although members of her outgoing administration were less convinced.
The so-called Northern lobby has never been seen as distinct or opposing to the Franco-German axis. However, after the defeat of the center-left government in Italy, the political consensus on bold reforms has been significantly weakened.
The emergence of the Northern Alliance may also be seen as politically significant, as it brings together countries with a budget surplus that are broadly opposed to budget transfers.
The emerging alliance favours the completion of the banking union and the emergence of the European Stability as “Europe’s IMF.” According to the eight finance ministers, the ESM should have the mandate to coordinate orderly sovereign debt restructuring. However, the statement was dismissive of a Eurozone distress fund and a Euro-wide stabilization mechanism, which would imply mass fiscal transfers in periods of recession.
But, there is little appetite for political integration, with the Finish finance minister telling journalists in Helsinki that current problems will not be solved with this kind of institutional changes.