Chirac backs Verhofstadt’s plans for eurozone nations
11 January 2006
BRUSSELS – French President Jacques Chirac has backed a Belgian idea for groups of EU countries to forge ahead in different European policy areas.
In a statement on Tuesday, Chirac showed support for an idea by Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt to allow certain groups of countries to advance European integration more quickly.
Verhofstadt had mooted the idea after the French and Dutch rejection of the European Constitution sparked fears of political paralysis in the 25-nation bloc.
“The member countries of the eurozone have a natural calling to deepen their political, economic, taxation and social integration,” said Chirac.
“France, together with interested partners, wants to examine all possible means to reinforce the visibility and weight of the eurozone.”
Verhofstadt’s spokesman Didier Seeuws welcomed the statement as “very positive”, although conceding that there was no fixed timetable for the idea.
“It is a political concept for which we have to await the right moment and then push for action,” he said.
It is widely believed in Belgian circles that the election of Romano Prodi, replacing current Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, in the Italian elections on 9 April would add new momentum to quicker European integration.
But the idea has been met with resistance from some EU experts who say Verhofstadt’s position is “inconsistent.”
“It would be difficult to put in place,” cautioned the president of the Institute of European Studies at Brussels UCL university, citing the existence of the single market as an example of a possible hurdle to the idea.
[Copyright Expatica 2006]
Subject: Belgian news