Portugal pushes for closer eurozone integration

As a result of an appeal by EC president Jean-Claude Juncker, Portugal has sent a working paper to Brussels reaffirming its lack of any kind of official sympathy to debtor states like Greece.

Calling for closer economic coordination between the countries of the eurozone, its proposals centre on ensuring that member states “are bound more closely to the promises they have assumed, so that alterations – like policies, in the case of Greece – do not compromise the implementation of previously defined measures”.

Reporting on the document, Lusa news agency has said little is known of the nitty-gritty but that more details will be forthcoming in the next few days.

Reuters, however, has revealed that “among the Portuguese proposals is a common unemployment benefit scheme for the zone that could help balance out the fiscal effects of different economies being bound by the same monetary policy due to sharing the single currency.

“Geographically isolated, like Greece, from the core of the currency bloc, Portugal would also like states to benefit under eurozone budget rules from investments which produce spinoff gains for others – Lisbon, for example, wants more cross-border power lines,” reports Reuters.

The Portuguese document, entitled The Missing Piece in the Economic and Monetary Union Puzzle, is just one of many that will now be studied in Brussels ahead of a summit in June where Europe’s “four presidents” – Jean-Claude Juncker (European Commission), Donald Tusk (European Council), Jeroen Dijsselbloem (Eurogroup) and Mário Draghi (European Central Bank) – are “expected to outline plans to strengthen the single currency area over coming years”.

The paper carries weight, adds Reuters, “not least because Portugal has been among those eurozone states obliged to adjust policy in return for an international bailout” but because “Lisbon is now among the toughest critics of the new Greek government’s drive to ease the terms of its own bailout”.

Talking over the weekend of his hopes for a “happy ending” in the accelerating crisis with Europe, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras alluded to his critics in southern Europe, saying: “There are powers which have specific interests and which want a rupture.” But there are also powers that seek “sincere and honest compromise”.

Tsipras’ hope, he stressed, was that decisions over the future of Greece in the European Union would not be made “by economists and technocrats alone”.

By NATASHA DONN [email protected]

Photo: European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker