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>> The Irish Times


The Irish Times - October 12, 2011

by Dan O'Brien

A group of of almost 100 prominent Europeans has urged euro area countries to move towards political union. Without much deeper integration, the group warns, the global financial system could be “destroyed”.

The call has been made in a letter published today in many of Europe’s leading newspapers, including The Irish Times, and has been sent to heads of government in all 17 countries of the euro zone.

It includes a proposal to establish a single euro area finance ministry that could borrow on behalf of the members of the zone.

The group also urges further concentration of powers at a European level to regulate the banking system across the euro area and for the development of a strategy for economic growth.

Signed in a personal capacity by “concerned citizens” the group includes 10 former presidents and prime ministers, 10 former foreign ministers and five former finance/economy ministers.

It also includes business leaders, former European commissioners and prominent economists.

The only Irish signatory is Chris Haskins, who is described as both British and Irish. Originally from Wicklow, Lord Haskins has spent most of his adult life in Britain and was ennobled a decade ago by the government of Tony Blair, to whose government he was close.

The absence of Irish signatories could be interpreted as a sign of disengagement from European politics in recent years.

There were no signatories from three of the 17 euro area countries – Estonia, Luxembourg and Malta. Almost half the signatories are from non-euro area states.

The initiative arose in response to a newspaper article two weeks ago by billionaire financier George Soros which called for similar measures.

In a conference call yesterday, Mr Soros said European banks are curbing their lending and creating a global credit crunch, a problem that is “not fully understood”, he claimed.

Joschka Fischer, a former German foreign minister, and Emma Bonino, a former Italian senator and European Commissioner, were the two other signatories to participate in the call.

Emphasising the proposal made in the letter to establish a euro zone treasury, Ms Bonino said that, historically, currency unions have not worked without a single finance ministry. She was scathing about the record of the current Italian administration.

Mr Fischer said that although he believed the EU and its single market would collapse in the event of a euro zone break-up, he was “not so pessimistic” about the German position on political union, citing a weekend defeat for Eurosceptic candidates in the influential Bavarian branch of Angela Merkel’s Christian democratic party.

To euro zone leaders: An open letter from concerned Europeans

THE EURO crisis needs a solution, now. The current measures are too little and too late and are precipitating global financial turmoil. The euro is far from perfect, as this crisis has revealed. But the answer is to fix its faults rather than allowing it to undermine and perhaps destroy the global financial system.

We, concerned Europeans, call upon the governments of the euro zone to agree in principle on the need for a legally binding agreement that would:

1. Establish a common treasury that can raise funds for the euro zone as a whole and ensure that member states adhere to fiscal discipline;

2. Reinforce common supervision, regulation and deposit insurance within the euro zone;

3. And develop a strategy that will produce both economic convergence and growth because the debt problem cannot be solved without growth.

While a legally binding agreement is being negotiated and ratified, the governments of the euro zone must in the interim empower the European Financial Stability Facility and the European Central Bank to co-operate in bringing the crisis under control.

These institutions could then guarantee and eventually recapitalise the banking system and enable countries in need to refinance their debt, within agreed limits, at practically no cost by issuing treasury bills that can be rediscounted at the ECB.

We call upon the legislatures of the euro zone countries to recognise that the euro needs a European solution. The pursuit of national solutions can only lead to dissolution.


Asger Aamund (Denmark)

Martti Ahtisaari (Finland)

Anders Aslund (Sweden)

Mario Baldassarri (Italy)

Gordon Bajnai (Hungary)

Ulrich Bech (Germany)

Peter Bofinger (Germany)

Svetoslav Bojilov (Bulgaria)

Emma Bonino (Italy)

Maria Cattaui (Greece/ Switzerland)

Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Germany)

Bernard Collomb (France)

Massimo D’Alema (Italy)

Daniel Daianu (Romania)

George David (Greece/Cyprus)

Howard Davies (UK)

Jean-Luc Dehaene (Belgium)

Gianfranco Dell’Alba (Italy)

Pavol Demes (Slovakia)

Kemal Dervis (Turkey)

Tibor Dessewffy (Hungary)

Andrew Duff (UK)

Hans Eichel (Germany)

Joschka Fischer (Germany)

José Pérez Fernández (Spain)

Timothy Garton Ash (UK)

Anthony Giddens (UK)

Charles Goodhart (UK)

Heather Grabbe (UK)

Charles Grant (UK)

Jean-Marie Guéhenno (France)

Alfred Gusenbauer (Austria)

Hans Hækkerup (Denmark)

David Hannay (UK)

Chris Haskins (Britain/Ireland)

Pierre Hassner (France)

Steven Heinz (Austria)

François Heisbourg (France)

Diego Hidalgo (Spain)

Michiel van Hulten (The Netherlands)

Gerhard Illing (Germany)

Jaakko Iloniemi (Finland)

Wolfgang Ischinger (Germany)

Minna Järvenpää (Finland/US)

Mary Kaldor (UK)

Glenys Kinnock (UK)

Gerald Knaus (Austria)

Fiorella Kostoris (Italy)

Bernard Kouchner (France)

Ivan Krastev (Bulgaria)

Mark Leonard (UK)

Gerard Lyons (UK)

George Magnus (UK)

Emma Marcegaglia (Italy)

Tadeusz Mazowiecki (Poland)

Dominique Moisi (France)

Hildegard MĂĽller (Germany)

Kalypso Nicolaidis (Greece/ France)

Christine Ockrent (Belgium)

Dick Oosting (The Netherlands)

Mabel van Oranje (The Netherlands)

Cem Ă–zdemir (Germany)

Ana Palacio (Spain)

Andrew Puddephatt (UK)

Julian Priestly (UK)

Hélène Rey (France)

George Robertson (UK)

Albert Rohan (Austria)

Dariusz Rosati (Poland)

Adam Rotfeld (Poland)

Olivier Roy (France)

Daniel Sachs (Sweden)

Marietje Schaake (The Netherlands)

Giuseppe Scognamiglio (Italy)

NarcĂ­s Serra (Spain)

Lord Simon (UK)

Aleksander Smolar (Poland)

Javier Solana (Spain)

Pedro Solbes (Spain)

Carlos Solchago (Spain)

George Soros (Hungary/US)

Pär Stenbäck (Finland)

Ion Sturza (Romania)

Pawel Swieboda (Poland)

Loukas Tsoukalis (Greece)

George Vassiliou (Cyprus)

Guy Verhofstadt (Belgium)

Vaira Vike-Freiberga (Latvia)

AntĂłnio Vitorino (Portugal)

David Vines (UK)

Stephen Wall (UK)

Norbert Walter (Germany)

Carlos Alonso ZaldĂ­var (Spain)

Stelios Zavvos (Greece)

All signed in personal capacity

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