7 November, Arcadia Hotel, Bratislava: Third instalment of the QUARTETORIUM series, organised by the Center for European Affairs (CEA), focused on re-evaluating impact of the Eurozone emergency measures and progress achieved on the road to deeper fiscal integration in the single currency area.
Credibility was the key word of the debate moderated by Zuzana Gabrižová, chief editor at Euractiv.sk, as the four speakers – Jiří Čáslavka, head of the New Economy and Finance Programme at Glopolis, Viktor Novysedlák, director of the Slovak Council for Budget Responsibility, Vladimír Vaňo, chief Analyst of Sberbank Europe AG, and Martin Vlachynský, analyst at INESS – applied the word to various aspect of the European fiscal policy, from integration and bail-outs to budgetary work of individual Eurozone members.
One of the speakers noted it was too late to ask whether to have a fiscal union in the Eurozone and he argued that the euro bloc has moved too far to engage a reverse gear. The real question was how such a union should look like. But no matter how it turns out, the rules of Eurozone governance must be well thought out and credible, not just new, he said.
The debate then developed into a series of exchanges on the relationship between the individual member states and the EU authorities, especially regarding the concept of solidarity and its consequences following the bail-outs.
One side of the argument reasoned that while adopting euro helped Slovakia in the short run, it did not make the country more competitive than its non-euro neighbours and tied it to solidarity mechanisms that the Eurozone deployed as it tried to help the crisis-stricken member states such as Greece, putting on an extra burden on both the government’s budget and citizens’ purses.
The other camp argued that the core principle of any collective body is that it was only as strong as the weakest member and not-helping was simply not an option, just as breaking up the Eurozone, should one or more members decided to leave, would be impossible given the fact that the cost of breaking it would be far higher than keeping it together. Keeping the Eurozone going was also a matter of credibility of both the European project and the common currency.
Speaking of the non-euro EU member states, one of the speakers admitted that while there always was an alternative, agreeing to common budgetary rules such as the fiscal compact would always be a better option for countries that did not have strong historic ties with other top global players as, for example, Britain has with the US.
Another guest reminded the audience that tighter fiscal integration did not necessarily mean that individual Eurozone countries would give up all fiscal powers. He went on to emphasise that increasing transparency and democratic processes in the fiscal union would be necessary.
QUARTETORIUM is a project of the Center for European Affairs (CEA) run in cooperation with the Slovak Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the International Visegrad Fund, that brings together guests from four distinct areas of public discourse creating a unique platform for the representatives of think-tanks and academia, governments and international institutions, businesses, and the media to participate in a four-way interaction on economic and political aspects of the European project.