'We need to learn the financial lessons,' says Barnier

John Lichfield hears from Michel Barnier about his role as the EU's economic supremo
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The Independent Online

Q. How do you respond to anxiety in the City of London about your appointment to oversee financial services?

A. I'm glad things have started to calm down, as the anxiety and fears expressed last week were deeply exaggerated. As I said then, everyone needs to calm down and take a deep breath. I won't be adding anything to fuel this unnecessary polemic. I won't be taking orders from Paris, London or any other capital: I'll be acting in the European interest. I have been and will be an independent Commissioner.

Q. Is there such a thing as the "French approach" to financial, or market regulation? If so, do you hope to bring such an approach to Brussels?

A. What matters to me is to build a European model using the expertise of all Member States. The reality is we need to learn from the crisis which has cost us all so much... My objective in Brussels is to ensure we learn those lessons and pull together to create a stronger European model – not a French or British model, but one which will be useful for all member states and others abroad. A model which creates sustainable long-term growth and ensures the right governance for financial markets.

Q. Is EU-wide financial regulation possible or desirable? Given the global nature of financial markets, should regulation not also be global?

A. The balance is a difficult one to get right. The last thing I want to do is to hamper EU competitiveness. That's why our approach must above all be global and that's why my road map will be the G20 recommendations... This does not mean that the EU can never take action alone and set the path either. But clearly, a global framework is essential – as is not undermining the EU's competitiveness.

Q. Finally, on the internal market part of your portfolio, is the time of breaking down internal barriers now over? Does the spirit of the times not favour a return to a more understanding Brussels approach to national subsidies?

A. The internal market is at the heart of what the European Union is all about. It's brought about more choice and lower prices for consumers, it's made it easier for businesses, big businesses and SMEs, to operate and trade in the EU, it's created millions of new jobs. The fact is that there are still too many barriers in the internal market – and these inhibit growth and jobs. So yes, I want to be a Commissioner for a more internal market, not less.