VIENNA, Feb 16 (Reuters) - The European Commission’s top financial official called on Thursday for deeper integration in the euro zone, dismissing fears that a move in that direction would split the European Union as it reels from Britain walking away.
“Some argue that deepening the euro area might be divisive as not all 27 member states are members of the euro. I believe this would be a deep mistake,” Pierre Moscovici, a French socialist and European commissioner for economic and financial affairs, said in a speech in Vienna.
Though they disagree on details, Germany, France and many of the 17 other states that use the euro currency are keen to bind the euro zone closer together after years of crisis in which investors have doubted the currency’s survival.
But some countries around the periphery of the bloc fear creating a system in which a hard core of states pushes the European Union as a whole into policies they do not want.
By voting to leave, Britain, the largest EU economy not in the euro zone, has taken away some clout from those countries.
Moscovici said he supported setting up new institutions specifically for the euro zone, including a budget separate from that of the European Union. It should also have its own finance minister, who would also be a commissioner, he said.
“I‘m in favour of a treasury for the euro zone. I‘m in favour of a budget or a fiscal capacity of the euro zone of a limited amount capable of helping us to invest on the one hand and also fight unemployment,” he told reporters before his speech, adding that the main threat to growth was a lack of investment.
While Moscovici said the planned banking union needed to be completed to ensure financial stability, he also underlined the importance of keeping voters onside, an apparent reference to rising populism and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.
“Nothing will be possible if the architecture of the euro area remains a discussion between central bankers (I fully respect them) officials, finance ministers (I also respect them, I used to be one of them) and commissioners (I am one of them) in closed forums,” he told a meeting at Austria’s central bank.
“We must reinforce democratic accountability and legitimacy in the governance of the euro area, to ensure the necessary support of the population,” he added.
Moscovici also appeared to see a silver lining in the Brexit vote, arguing that it meant the group of EU member states not in the euro zone would be smaller.
“With the exit of the UK from the EU, most remaining non-euro area Member States can be expected to enter the euro sooner or later,” he said.