EU may need treaty changes, says Jose Manuel Barroso

Treaty changes to achieve even closer European integration will "probably" be necessary to cope with the economic crisis, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said today.

After talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Brussels at the Commission, he said the EU was putting in place a raft of economic plans which should reassure markets, including stronger eurozone regulation and supervision, a quadrupling to 440 billion euro of an existing bailout fund and a tax on bank transactions.

But more might need to be done and it might require treaty change, he said - something Mrs Merkel said last month was necessary to get the EU out of the debt crisis.

Mr Barroso said: "We may need treaty change for more integration if current (financial) mechanisms are proved not to be enough."

He said the idea was not a delaying tactic, adding: "We are not proposing to have treaty change to avoid decisions we have to take now, so it cannot be a way of postponing that.

"But yes, probably in the future we may have to have treaty change, and it is a good indication for so-called markets and investors that we are looking for forward integration in the euro area, and not less Europe."

The remarks came hours after Foreign Secretary William Hague warned Conservative eurosceptics of a long wait if they thought treaty change could be a chance to negotiate the return of powers from Brussels.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that major treaty change was not on the table at the moment, adding: "Don't run away with expectations that there is about to be some major treaty change, these things take years to negotiate and then to ratify in other countries."

Chancellor George Osborne suggested a few weeks ago that there could be agreement within a year or two on changes to allow greater financial integration within the eurozone.

Mr Barroso, speaking at a press conference with Chancellor Merkel, said Europe needed "renewal" to cope with the crisis, adding: "Europe is at a crossroads. The question is do we roll back our achievements or make it a time of renewal.

"Only through more Europe and a more committed European leadership can we renew our common capacity to act to ensure Europe counts in the world by promoting its social market economy.

"Renewal requires leadership and determination - so, yes to a more united Europe, strong committee institutions working in close co-operation with our member states."

He added: "Once again I want to make clear our position at the Commission, that on matters of Union competence (power), matters that we have already transferred to the European Union, the Commission is the economic government of Europe.

"Of course the Commission will work in partnership with the member states on matters that remain in national competence.

"Policies are more inter-dependent than ever - the Community method (decision-making at EU level involving Commission, MEPs and national ministers), is more important than ever."


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