Italy, Greece guarded on Juncker's finance minister plan

 14 Sep 2017 - 16:34

Italy, Greece guarded on Juncker's finance minister plan
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker addresses the European Parliament during a debate on The State of the European Union in Strasbourg, France, September 13, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

AFP

Athens: Italy and Greece on Thursday gave a guarded response to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's call for a Euro-wide finance minister, saying there was little point in creating the job just for the sake of it.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, speaking at a Greek-Italian cooperation summit, said his country had been in favour of such a project for years.

But "a finance minister must create opportunities", he said in translated remarks at a news conference, "it is not enough to create a job".

In his annual state-of-the-union speech, Juncker on Wednesday proposed that the EU create its own Europe-wide finance minister, a big step towards deeper integration of the eurozone.

The proposal matches a similar demand by French President Emmanuel Macron, who says he believes that the eurozone needs stronger institutions in order to avoid shocks such as the debt crisis or Brexit.

Gentiloni called for "concrete steps" towards strengthening economic and banking cooperation in Europe, saying "big opportunities" were coming the EU's way in those areas.

But he said democratic mechanisms were needed to accompany any future eurozone finance minister post, and the "political and economic intentions" behind such an appointment had to be clear.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told the same news conference that there was no need for any finance minister if the job was simply to watch over compliance with eurozone convergence criteria.

"A finance minister who would just be a policeman punishing unruly members would bring nothing new to the table," he said.