Yves Bertoncini in To Vima about the Franco-German axis in the Greece-euro area negotiations
An English translation of Yves Bertoncini responses is available below:
To Vima: President Hollande seemed to be the only real ally of Greece in these very difficult circumstances. Why do you think Paris decided to stand up to Germany?
Yves Bertoncini: François Hollande stood up to avoid a Grexit for at least three reasons.
First, the majority of French public opinion is ready to go on supporting Greece in this time of harsh crisis: such popular support doesn’t exist in other countries, including Germany but also Finland, the Baltic countries, etc…
Second, François Hollande doesn’t believe that a Grexit would strenghten the EuroArea, making it more consistent:on the contrary, he believes that it would weaken it, making it reversible – not to mention that it would weaken the EU at large.
Third, while Germany appeared to focus more on economic and monetary issues, François Hollande develops a geopolitical vision of this crisis: a Grexit would mean more crisis and more instability in Greece. and it would have negative consequences not only in Athens but and in the whole Balkans. That’s also why France wanted to avoid it.
To Vima: What does French differentiation mean for the future of the Franco-German axis?
Yves Bertoncini: France and Germany have always been different, one could even say that « Germany comes from Mars and France comes from Venus »: that’s why they form a so called « couple ». The euro is one of their “kids”, and is has also been conceived with different inputs from Germany (focusing on rules) and France (more open to political discretion”).
The treatment of the Greek case has fuelled tensions within this couple on defining the good balance between more solidarity (from the EU) and more responsibility (in Athens), but the final deal was made possible on the basis of their common agreement. between Angela Merkel, François Hollande and Alexis Tsipras.
As long as the differences between Paris and Berlin are a source of complementarity, the Franco-German « axis » is to remain the cornerstone of the European construction.
To Vima: Do you believe that what happened with Greece could have an influence on European integration - especially if we consider the recent report of the Five Presidents which is considered rather hollow? Would you see any leap forward for European integration?
Yves Bertoncini: The painful « crisis management » method used in Greece (and in three other « countries under program ») is already part of a more integrated approach: the creation of the ESM is a federal leap, as well as the launch of a « banking union ». But the lessons drawn from but the Greek crisis should lead to a more integrated ex anteapproach, to be discussed on the basis of the 5 presidents’ report and a simple principle: prevention better than cure.
There is first a need to complete the “banking union”, including via the creation of a European common deposit guarantee, which would have prevented the Greek deposit holders to move money out of their banks. There is also a need for financial transfers in the framework of a Euro Area budget, aiming at macro-economic stabilization on the basis of an insurance system as well as at promoting structural reforms: on this second issue, Jacques Delors proposes a “super Cohesion fund”, whose objective is to support Euro Area countries in their efforts to sustain investment and foster competitiveness and innovation, so that excessive divergences are preempted.
Political lessons should also been drawn: there is a need for more accountability and openness in the Euro Area governance. The presidency of the Eurogroup should be a full time job and the parliamentary dimension of Euro Area governance should be reinforced, via the creation of a Euro Area subcommittee in the EP and the promotion of the « inter-parliamentary conference » involving MEP’s as well as members of national parliaments. Alexis Tsipras recent intervention at the European parliament was an intense democratic moment: we also need more democratic moments of this kind to develop a more integrated and open vision of what is at stake in the Euro Area, in which we must all remain, united but diverse.