WASHINGTON — European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici said Friday he was confident eurozone countries would pursue an ambitious restructuring of their currency union after upcoming elections in France and Germany.
“It will be a window of opportunity that we must not miss,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund’s spring meeting.
Though he acknowledged there is still no political consensus on whether to pursue such a course, he argued that the challenges the single currency faces will force policymakers to act.
“I’m confident that consciousness will come that it is of basic common interest that we have stronger tools for the eurozone,” Moscovici said, adding that he expected the Commission’s upcoming paper on the future of monetary union to be “ambitious.” “This debate is not over, it is starting.”
Economic divergence within the eurozone was widened dramatically since the financial crisis, in particular between north and south. Critics have argued for years that the currency will be doomed in the long-term if it doesn’t evolve into a political and fiscal union, equipped with elements such as a common budget, finance minister and its own monetary fund.
So far, those ambitions have been thwarted by resistance in fiscally conservative member states, in particular Germany, where voters are wary of any moves to communalize eurozone debt.
Moscovici, a former French finance minister, said he believed even Berlin understood that time was running out. He said the signal he was getting from Berlin was “let’s wait for the election.”
“If we continue diverging, north and south, rich and poor countries, surplus countries with deficit countries, the moment will come when those who are in huge surpluses will start to get fed up with those who don’t reduce their deficits and those who are in the worst economic situation will be fed up to see no solidarity,” he said. “So we need to reintroduce mechanisms and tools capable of creating or recreating convergence inside the eurozone.”
Regarding the French election, Moscovici said that even after Thursday’s terror shooting in Paris he believed Marine Le Pen would be defeated by pro-European forces.
Still, he said there was little doubt the attack could affect the outcome.
“It will have an impact, how big and for whom, nobody knows,” he said.