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European Union details its deeper integration, wants common finance minister and bundled euro zone debt

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The European Commission put forward proposals on further euro zone integration on Wednesday as a response to the rising populist sentiment across the union.

The EU’s executive body resurfaced previous proposals for a common finance minister and a new bond market to manage debt, which bundles national debts into one asset. However, such proposals, if successful, would only be fully in place by 2025, the commission’s paper said.

Valdis Dombrovskis, vice-president of the European Commission, said that the EU should not wait for another crisis to deepen economic and monetary policies to strengthen the resilience of the euro area.

“We need to move forward now,” Dombrovskis told reporters on Wednesday.

According to the European Commission, a fully integrated economic and monetary union would need a Treasury led by a EU finance minister, who could chair the meetings of the euro zone finance ministers – currently known as the Eurogroup.

“Everything would depend on the responsibilities and powers such a euro zone finance minister would receive,” Carsten Brzeski, chief economist at ING, told CNBC via email. “Would be a representative role or would it come together with a euro zone budget,” he wondered.

A high-ranking EU official, who often attends Eurogroup meetings, told CNBC last week that having a common minister seems unlikely in the near term. He explained that the current Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who’s also the Dutch finance minister, gathers significant support among the other finance ministers but failed to get enough backing to continue with his European role after having lost the general election, putting an end, at least for now, to the idea of a permanent president.

No Eurobonds

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The commission’s discussion also suggested sovereign bond-backed securities to make bank’s balance sheets more diversified and interconnected.

“These financial instruments … are securitized financial products that could be issued by a commercial entity or an institution,” the commission said, highlighting that “there would be no debt mutualization between member states.”

Some argue that such options would allow more-troubled economies to keep borrowing at low costs in a scenario where the European Central Bank would stop its quantitative easing program.

The Commission already under the presidency of Jean-Claude Juncker had suggested in 2015 that there should be common eurobonds. However, some countries have opposed this idea. Germany, for example, doesn’t want to lose its credit rating to prop up troubled euro zone economies.

Focusing for now on debt securitization would mean that it would not be necessary to interfere with national government’s debt issuances.

“Securitization simply means that you take the existing bonds on the market, e.g. German, French, Italian and Spanish, and ‘securitize’ them in a tranched bond,” Claus Vistesen, euro zone economist at Patheon Macroeconomics, told CNBC.

“In this new security, the bonds of the individual states would exist independently. So for example if you bought a bond with 25 percent of each of the major economies, and Italy defaulted, you would still be paid on the remaining 75 percent, presumably at least,” he added.

This idea could therefore gather some more support in Germany, given that in opposition to eurobonds, a country would still be able to default.

Franco-German willingness

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron attend a press conference at the Chancellery on May 15, 2017 in Berlin, Germany.

Axel Schmidt | Getty Images
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron attend a press conference at the Chancellery on May 15, 2017 in Berlin, Germany.


Above all Wednesday’s paper intended to boost the EU, as populism spreads and as negotiations with London start for the U.K.’s exit from the Union.

The newly elected and pro-European French President, Emmanuel Macron, met Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany in Berlin in mid-May. At the time both said that they wanted to move further with euro zone integration.

“There is a common conviction that we cannot only deal with Britain’s exit (from the EU), but instead that we must above all think about how we can deepen the existing European Union and especially the euro zone,” Merkel told reporters.

While EU officials have talked up integration there is doubt Berlin would back the pooling of debt or national governments’ ability to raise money.

“Latest comments from Merkel and Macron have given hope that the Franco-German axis could really revive further integration of the euro zone. However, the coming days will show whether it was only words or whether particularly the Germans are willing to put their money where their mouth is,” Brzeski added.

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/01/european-union-details-its-deeper-integration-wants-common-finance-minister-and-bundled-euro-zone-debt.html

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