Commissioner Olli Rehn joined ECB chief Mario Draghi in calling for a clear path towards full economic and political union when he addressed Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee MEPs on Monday night. Questioned by MEPs, Mr Rehn also conceded that it was time to consider using bailout money to recapitalise banks directly, as had been done in the case of Spain.
MEPs primarily used the two hour session with Mr Rehn to quiz him about the Commission's recently released country recommendations, Spain and Greece, as well as ways for achieving deeper economic integration.
Commission policy recommendations
Pervenche Berès (S&D, FR), said that the Commission needed to reflect political contexts better with its recommendations if it wanted to be seen as acting in a democratic and accountable way. "Your recommendations to France imply a negative interpretation of what French people have just voted for. This is a problem on the democratic side", she said.
Sampo Terho (EFD, FI), said that the Commission had been too timid in its proposals. "You did not say anything which is not obvious", he said. Jurgen Klute (GUE, DE), also felt the Commission had missed an opportunity when it failed to highlight Greece's military expenditure. "How can you allow Greece to increase its defence budget when it already spends 4% of its GDP on this sector?" he asked.
Dirk Jan Eppink (ECR, BE), doubted the very effectiveness of the country-specific recommendations, arguing that Member States were not taking note of the comments addressed to them. Sylvie Goulard (ALDE, FR), said the Commission had not done enough to ensure that its recommendations were reaching citizens, which was the only way to ensure that governments felt the weight of these reform suggestions.
Time for bold moves
"Is this the moment for far reaching decisions?" Marianne Thysen (EPP, BE) asked, referring to the need to move towards a true economic union. "Yes, the time is right. We need a concrete roadmap by the next European Council and we need to bring the medium-term objectives forward", Mr Rehn replied, adding that a political union allowing for better accountability would also be necessary.
Pressed by Philippe Lamberts (Greens, BE), on whether it was also time for a tax union, Mr Rehn suggested that this appeared unrealistic at this point; since Member States were not ready to relinquish their veto.