France is leading a group of EU member states who want Council President Herman Van Rompuy to receive new powers and lead the Euro zone at the level of heads of state and government, according to reports in the French daily Le Monde yesterday (1 August).
The newspaper said France intended to make a formal proposal to Germany by the end of August, with an EU-level decision to boost Van Rompuy’s powers to follow in the autumn. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is believed to back the appointment.
Van Rompuy has already taken on such a role in practice, presiding over the 21 July extraordinary euro zone summit which adopted a second bailout package for Greece. France now reportedly wants Van Rompuy to continue playing such a role but with a clear mandate and institutional backing.
The Euro zone has never had a president at the level of heads of state and government. Unlike the Euro group — the configuration of Euro-zone economy and finance ministers who meet each month under the presidency of Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Jean Claude Juncker — such a presidency is not presaged by any EU treaty.
According to an unnamed expert, the appointment of Van Rompuy is expected to bridge a “communication gap”. Leaders are disappointed with the limitations within the current delineation of roles, he argues.
If Van Rompuy were apponted to such a role, he would undoubtedly take precedence over Juncker — the longest serving head of government of the EU — who has led the Euro group since 2005. Juncker’s mandate ends in January 2012 and according to le Monde, his authority has recently been questioned by EU leaders.
An advantage of having Van Rompuy as both Council President and leader of the Euro zone at the level of heads of state and government is that he would be able more easily to liaise with the ten EU countries outside the Euro zone, the French daily suggests.
It claims Van Rompuy himself is not opposed to the French proposal.