Brussels welcomes call for more EU integration
A call by 11 European Union foreign ministers for more integration within the bloc, including the possibilities of debt mutualization and a joint army, was welcomed in Brussels on Wednesday, DPA reported.
The suggestions were made by the Future of Europe Group, a six-month project spearheaded by Germany that also included the foreign ministers of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain.
"In many parts of Europe, nationalism and populism are on the rise, while the feeling of solidarity and sense of belonging in Europe are dwindling," the ministers said in their report. "We have to take action to restore confidence in our joint project."
European Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde described their ideas as "an important contribution to the debate taking place" over how the EU should integrate further, a move seen as key to combating the eurozone's enduring debt crisis.
"Political union (for Europe) is not an impossible objective," Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said at a think-tank event in Rome on Wednesday. "On the contrary, it is an objective that we should all strive for."
"The right lesson from the crisis is more Europe," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle had said a day earlier. "To go for renationalization in times of globalization would be absurd."
But the proposals include ideas that are bound to prove controversial - not least because the EU's 27 member states have traditionally been loath to yield sovereign powers.
The report calls for, among other things, more powers for the commission, more control for the European Parliament and the creation of a "European Monetary Fund." The bloc's diplomatic corps and defence policy should also be given a broader reach.
The report also said that European institutions should oversee national budgets, while "some members of the group suggested steps toward mutualization of sovereign risk" - a move usually associated with the controversial concept of eurobonds, which has been anathema to Germany.
Terzi described that point as "fundamental" in an interview published in the daily La Stampa on Wednesday.
"All foreign ministers accepted to discuss it thoroughly," he said. "We need to relaunch Europe putting our identity first, not just our own numerical interests."