Eurogroup head lambasts Franco-German reform call
The head of the group of eurozone finance ministers, Jean-Claude Juncker, lashed out on Wednesday at a French-German proposal to toughen rules on EU budget deficits, terming them unacceptable.
Juncker, prime minister of Luxembourg, dismissed the plan agreed by France and Germany to tighten the EU's Stability and Growth Pact in light of the Greek debt crisis, saying in effect that the proposals had no teeth.
"This agreement is unacceptable because it guarantees no strict course for stability nor a stability pact with bite," he said in remarks to German daily Die Welt to appear Thursday.
Juncker said neither that Berlin nor Paris had consulted him on the issue before French President Nicolas Sarkoky and German Chancellor Angela Merkel reached agreement on the matter last week in Deauville (France).
EU leaders were set to meet on Thursday in Brussels to decide whether to undertake an arduous rewrite of the EU's Lisbon Treaty in an attempt to prevent a new debt crisis.
In a speech to the German parliament on Wednesday, Merkel said she was determined to press on with the reform.
"The fact that some are afraid of the consequences" of such treaty changes "isn't an argument against going down this road," she told members of parliament.
In addition to seeking treaty changes by 2013, Merkel and Sarkozy also agreed in Deauville to call for sanctions against EU countries running unacceptable deficits.
Juncker also rejected this idea, saying "the withdrawal of voting rights for budget-sinning countries isn't a possible way forward and I reject any changes to the EU treaty in this case."
He also said he did not believe a majority of countries would go along with such a proposal.
"That's why we shouldn't go on and on about it at the summit" in Brussels, he added.
The Lisbon treaty, which came into effect in December, was eight years in the making and was only ratified after overcoming objections from voters who rejected it in referendums in France, the Netherlands and Ireland.
Opinion polls in Germany have expressed huge popular opposition to paying for profligate euro partners' budgetary mistakes.
As the EU's biggest nation, Germany paid out the lion's share of euro states' loans to Greece and made the greatest commitments to the 440-billion-euro rescue pot, the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF).
© 2010 AFP