Pierre Moscovici is not a fan of referenda
French official Pierre Moscovici told reporters he had “never been keen on referendums” and suggested wide-ranging plans to tie the eurozone states ever closer together could be carried out without holding any.
His remarks came at a press conference unveiling the bloc’s highly anticipated proposals to reform the struggling single currency area, which include ambitious moves such as creating a centralised EU finance ministry.
Brussels has lost every single referendum held on European issues over the past 12 years, dating back to 2005 when French and Dutch voters both overwhelmingly rejected the imposition of an EU constitution.
And although eurocrats have largely ignored the results of such popular votes – the latest example of which being the decision to railroad through a deal with Ukraine against the Dutch people’s wishes – there is an awareness of the damage such actions have had on the bloc’s reputation.
In particular it is hard to see how two of the most contentious measures – the creation of an EU finance minister overseeing a centralised eurozone budget – could be pushed through without consulting the European people.
The EU was largely characterised as “undemocratic” by Leave campaigners during their campaign to get Britain out of the club, with its disdain for referendum results being mercilessly exploited by top Brexiteers.
And some of the proposed measures contained in the EU’s reflection paper on the single market, published yesterday, would require treaty changes whilst others may clash with elements of member states’ constitutions.
Asked whether he thought Brussels could win such a vote in his homeland of France, Mr Moscovici replied: “To be honest with you I’ve never been keen on referendums at all.
"They can be very expensive and there are other ways in which you can ratify treaties other than by referendum.
“It all rather depends on just what sort of document you put to parliament or to the people. If it’s constitutional a referendum makes more sense.”
To be honest with you I’ve never been keen on referendums at all
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Tellingly he raised the example of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) – a centralised EU fund used to bail out struggling eurozone members – as an example of how radical reform could be pushed through without holding popular votes.
He said: “As regards the ESM, for example, I know that these haven’t been put to referendums, so I think that’s an important consideration.”
Describing the document as a “reflection paper” and not a “legalistic” one, he concluded: “Some things might require treaty changes others not, so I don’t think you can jump to any conclusions on that at this stage.”
Mr Moscovici said the EU Commission had decided to move ahead with the ambitious paper now because it had a “window of opportunity” in which to reform the bloc following the election results in Austria, the Netherlands and France.
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The paper, which eventually calls for complete political union in Europe, states: “The momentum for further reform of the EMU [Economic and Monetary Union] has been partly lost.
“But we simply cannot afford to wait for another crisis before finding the collective will to act.”
Alongside an EU finance minister it also contains plans to create state-backed securities for the eurozone – a lesser form of the eurobond scheme pushed for by Emmanuel Macron which would not involve member states pooling their debt.
All of the measures contained in it would have to be agreed by both the EU Parliament, which is made up of largely federalist MEPs, and the EU Council of heads of Government.