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Europe ready to risk treaty change to shore up euro

Brussels — At the European Parliament on Tuesday, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi summed up the current chaos of European monetary union in addressing the spiralling debt crisis, saying: "Europe has a large body with a very small head."

But as markets shake the ground under Greece and the eurozone as a whole, supporters of more federalism and tighter monetary union are gaining a growing hearing.

Moves towards common economic governance are likely however to require change in the treaty enacted in December 2009 after a decade of tough talks and failed referendums.

And that at a time when euro-scepticism is on the up and up as populist anti-EU parties take root across the 27-nation bloc.

"Different countries have different ideas about European federalism but Italy is ready to give up all sovereignty needed for a genuine European central government," said Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini in an interview Wednesday.

"If necessary the treaties must be changed," he said.

Berlin too is ready to go back to the drawing-board to bolster economic governance in the eurozone "although we know how difficult it can be to negotiate a treaty," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said recently.

Europe ready to risk treaty change to shore up euro

The European Central Bank is leaning in the same direction.

ECB chief Jean-Claude Trichet has called for a European "finance minister" while his designated successor Mario Draghi has urged a "large" revision of the Lisbon accord.

A new rewrite would be a risky endeavour after Europe’s failed 2005 attempt at a draft constitution had to be thrown out following "no" votes in referendums in France and the Netherlands.

And the watered-down Lisbon treaty that followed was adopted and ratified only after harrowing efforts, notably in Ireland and the Czech Republic.

European Union governments in consequence had vowed at the time to refrain from changes for the years to come.

EU states, moreover, may have quite different views on what changes should be made.

Germany, a key eurozone guarantor due to its economic and financial might, clearly would like to see tighter rules for budgetary discipline carved into the rule-book.

Others might opt for a change enabling the emission of eueobonds, an idea opposed by Berlin.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Wednesday confirmed in a speech to the European Parliament that the EU executive would "soon" present proposals on possible eurobonds.

"Today I want to confirm that the Commission will soon present options for the introduction of Eurobonds," he said.

"Some of these options could be implemented within the terms of the current Treaty, and others would require Treaty change.

"But we must be honest: this will not bring an immediate solution for all the problems we face and it will come as an element of a comprehensive approach to further economic and political integration."

Warning the parliament that a Greek default or exit from the eurozone would have "dramatic" consequences for the world, EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn too said it was time to move on from the status quo.

"The current institutional structures are not sufficient to tackle the challenges that we are currently facing … we need a new federative moment, and that moment must start today," he said.

Yacine Le Forestier / AFP / Expatica