EU Eyes Monetary Fund for Region as Political Wills Align

  • European finance ministers begin two-day meeting in Tallinn
  • ‘The timing is right,’ Slovakia’s Kazimir says in interview

Peter Kazimir

Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

Transforming the euro-area’s bailout fund into a European Monetary Fund is a necessary step and one that could be among the next moves enacted as its members seek to strengthen the currency bloc, Slovak Finance Minister Peter Kazimir said in an interview.

His comments come as European Union finance ministers meeting in Tallinn, Estonia, seek to capitalize on a favorable shift in the political winds to make headway on uniting the bloc. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also renewed support for exploring the possibility of creating an EU monetary fund while meeting with French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe in Berlin on Friday.

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“There is a broad agreement on many issues, for instance the transformation of the ESM into a new entity with new tasks is a must,” Kazimir said. “It is the primary candidate for a change.”

Finance chiefs at the two-day gathering will discuss different ways to further integrate the remaining 27 members of the region after the U.K.’s departure in an effort to both bolster the economy and to better shield the region from future financial turmoil. The talks come after European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker laid out his vision for the future of the EU and as some of the region’s senior figures, including France’s newly elected President Emmanuel Macron, are calling for reform.

German Support

“We will have to think about strengthening the European Stability Mechanism in the direction of a European Monetary Fund,” Merkel said to reporters after the Berlin meeting. “I also think that our cooperation will become much more consistent, which is why I haven’t opposed a European finance minister.”

Merkel added that any proposals would have to be attended by sufficient substance but that she was optimistic that, together with the French government, they could find solutions.

“There is a unique opportunity to go forward with the integration of the eurozone,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told reporters on his way into the Tallinn meeting. Citing stronger economic conditions in Europe, Macron’s victory and the possibility of a fourth term for Merkel, Le Maire said in October, they will have “the possibility of pushing integration.”

Still, while many of the ministers echoed his calls for taking advantage of the political situation to move ahead with reforms, some called for caution on how these will affect the EU more broadly.

United Europe

“The monetary union is the core of a united Europe but at the same time we have the internal market for all 27,” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said. “That’s why it was important for us in past years that the European Monetary Union doesn’t split European unity."

The finance ministers will also discuss ways to develop the economic and monetary union as well as technological innovation in the capital markets and how that affects banking stability.

“The timing is right, the window of opportunity won’t be open for long,” Kazimir said. “After a long period, political cycles of the eurozone’s main players have synchronized.”

— With assistance by Rainer Buergin, Mark Deen, Carolynn Look, Arne Delfs, and Helene Fouquet

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