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Germany wants EU court to hammer states on budgets

Published on 22/10/2011

Germany wants the European Court of Justice to hammer states that break public finance obligations to EU partners under renegotiated treaties, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Saturday.

“We urgently need changes to the treaty so we can have a real stability union,” Westerwelle said as he arrived for talks in Brussels between EU foreign ministers, focused on preparations for back-to-back summits on the debt crisis Sunday and Wednesday.

“Changes to the treaty are needed to give the stability pact some authority to make sure there are sanctions against those who do not act in solidarity and solidity,” he said, saying the pact lacked “bite.”

“Perhaps there could also be a role for the European Court of Justice, to be called into action when some continually break the rules.”

Westerwelle was articulating a hardline expression of Germany’s insistence that all appropriate deterrents be pressed into service so as to leave financial bailouts for the likes of Greece, or arguably more damagingly the next big eurozone worry in Italy, purely as a last resort.

Chancellor Angela Merkel already faces having to run any decisions reached at European Union summits past the Bundestag’s budget committee before she can sign up to EU agreements.

Berlin wants a raft of safety valves inserted into new rules being drawn up by leaders for the cross-border governance of eurozone fiscal and economic issues.

“It’s not enough just to tackle the current crisis,” Westerwelle added. “We also have to make sure that what we have experienced in recent months isn’t allowed to keep permanently happening.

“Countries that want or need to be under the rescue shield for a long time must be prepared to give up a little bit of their sovereignty.

“For example an audit of their national budgets so that in an emergency, interventions can be made.”

Backing a Dutch bid for a special EU commissioner’s job to be created specifically to police public finances, Westerwelle also said governments need to discuss appointing “a ‘savings commissioner,’ or a stronger role for the commission in general.

“We need to convert the long-term stability mechanism into a real European monetary fund that can intervene in the budgets of countries that have built up debts over such a long period of time.”

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, though, said re-opening the Lisbon treaty — already a decade in the making after multiple initial rejections — would be to lift the lid on a “Pandora’s Box” threatening the EU’s very future.