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Speech: we need a ‘united states of Europe’, says Reding

Viviane Reding, vice-president of the European Commission © EU


European Commission vice-president Viviane Reding called for “a thorough political and democratic deepening” of the current European Union.

Ms. Reding said her vision of a more closely integrated Europe was “powerful, ambitious and probably controversial”. However, with the on-going economic crisis it is more important than ever to discuss the future of the EU, she said.

She argued that Europe’s sovereign debt crisis has shown the limitations of monetary union without political union.

“We have seen for 20 years that neither the market nor the strictest rules can effectively prevent policies that lead to excessive government debt in all the member states,” she said. “How can anyone continue to believe that market discipline and rules alone will produce sound public budgets?”

Comparing the USA with the EU highlights the weaknesses in the current Union, she continued.

“There is no crisis of confidence in the US dollar, even though the USA has a higher level of debt than most countries in Europe and a far higher budget deficit than the Euro countries,” she said.

Long-term solutions

The mechanisms to stop meltdown of the financial system in Europe – the European Stability Mechanism and the ‘fiscal compact’ – had been vital emergency measures, she said. However, they lack democratic accountability and must not be long term solutions, she argued.

“There are soon going to be fundamental decisions at European level about the direction of economic, financial, and social policy in the euro countries,” she said, “These decisions call for effective day-to-day democratic control.”

Ms. Reding outlined a number of possible steps to ensure the legitimacy of European government. The changes would include:

  • commissioners elected by the European Parliament
  • a two-chamber government system as in the USA
  • a directly elected president of the European Commission

Ms Reding was speaking at the University of Passau in Passau, Germany.

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In brief

Link to the milestones