Reform of the eurogroup called for: let’s not be like dijsselbloem

The Eurogroup is still beyond democratic control. That is why Transparency International is urgently calling for reform.

The Eurogroup is in urgent need of reform, finds Transparency International Photo: dpa

The Eurogroup has risen to become one of the EU’s most powerful bodies in the euro crisis, but it still eludes democratic control. This is the conclusion of the non-governmental organization Transparency International (TI) in a study presented in Brussels on Tuesday. The round of 19 euro finance ministers urgently needs to be reformed, the experts demand. Above all, more transparency is needed.

Study coordinator Leo Hoffmann-Axthelm cites former Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem as a negative example. The Dutchman had claimed that some EU countries (meaning Greece) were spending aid loans only on "women and alcohol." That might have gone down well in Holland, Axthelm said, "but it damaged credibility and the office."

Under its new chairman, Mario Centeno, the Eurogroup is not acting as rigidly as it once did, he said. But the basic problems have not changed, according to TI: Finance ministers meet behind closed doors, they feel they have a duty above all to their own taxpayers – and not to the crisis countries they decide on.

Moreover, they are accountable to no one at the EU level. Even the European Parliament is on the outside. According to TI, small Eurogroup countries also lose out – especially if they are dependent on financial aid, as was recently the case with Greece. This was mainly due to the unanimity principle, according to the study, which was made available to the taz in advance.

Only Germany and France have the resources

It leads to enormous peer pressure, which is intensified by the pressure of the financial markets. Only Germany and France have the necessary resources to prepare decisions well and to enforce them.

But how could the Eurogroup be reformed? It’s not just France’s leader Emmanuel Macron’s ideas on this that have come to nothing. "At its meeting in December, the Eurogroup took a full 19 hours to agree on a few small reform steps," Hoffmann-Axthelm criticizes.

Macron had previously called for a euro finance minister and a euro parliament – and failed. Instead of greater integration, there is also the possibility of strengthening the national level, says Hoffmann-Axthelm. However, it would make more sense to provide the Eurogroup with a permanent, full-time president. This would not only improve the transparency and accountability of decisions. It would also avoid conflicts of interest.

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