'We Need Fiscal Union': EU Commissioner Almunia
Staff Writer, CNBC.com
Greater fiscal and political union is needed in Europe, and will be discussed by euro zone leaders within months, Joaquin Almunia, EU Competition Commissioner, told CNBC Saturday.
"This is one moment where we need greater integration. We need to learn from history to look forward with ambition," said Almunia, speaking on the fringes of theAmbrosetti Forum, at the Villa d'Este on the shores of Lake Como.
"We need fiscal union," he added. He said that European people "would understand" that greater union was needed, but that their political leaders needed to explain the situation to them.
"What we learned during 10 years of the Lisbon Treaty is that we need clear strategies and objectives," Almunia added.
As the debt crisis in the euro region has escalated, the pressure on its leaders to ensure the future of the single currency has increased.
A common theme of the gathering of political and business leaders was frustration at the lack of leadership from individual European countries.
"There is a lack of strong political leadership in Europe," Mario Monti, former European Commissioner, told CNBC. "We need the sort of strong leadership which helped bring in the euro."
There have been increasing doubts over whether the euro can survive, and whether France and Germany, the region's biggest economies, will be prepared to help prop up the single currency.
The new expansion of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), to a 440 billion euros ($665 billion) fund may not be the last measure enacted to shore up the euro.
"It's important to keep the sense that we're all in the same boat," said Monti, who admitted that the divide between the Northern and Southern economies in the euro zone was "a real problem."
While most attendees whom CNBC.com spoke to believed that the euro will emerge from this crisis, many felt that greater fiscal and political integration was needed.
"Europe needs more political integration, accompanied by important political decisions," said Almunia. "Europe has the economic and political and democratic force to be an example for the world."
Corrado Passera, chief exec of Intesa Sanpaolo, the Italian bank, told CNBC: "I believe that the euro can and will survive, if we are encouraged to arrest debt."
The concept of a joint euro zone bond, which the German government is opposed to, was also on the agenda at the conference.
"Europe can develop a bond market that would be one of the strongest bond markets in the world," said Passera.