×

UPDATE 1-Nail euro zone problems first, fix institutions later, ministers say

(Adds French, German ministers, background)

TALLINN, Sept 15 (Reuters) - The euro zone must first identify its problems, then see what changes to its institutions are needed to fix them, euro zone finance ministers said on Friday during informal talks on the future of the single-currency area.

The discussions in the Estonian capital of Tallinn follow differing proposals from France, Germany and the European Commission to revamp the euro zone after Britain leaves the European Union, as is due in March 2019.

Various proposals include creating a pan-EU or a euro zone finance minister, setting up a separate euro zone budget or reserving a part of the existing EU budget for the currency union, and setting up a euro zone parliament alongside or within the existing EU parliament.

"I think we should start from the other end," Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the chairman of euro zone finance ministers, said as he entered the ministerial talks.

"Instead of having a debate mainly about the institutional side, (we should have) a debate about what is lacking in the economic and monetary union, in terms of resilience, competitiveness, solidarity," he said.

"So I think we should start from what the problem is and end with an institutional debate," Dijsselbloem said.

Austrian Finance Minister Hans Joerg Schelling agreed.

"We are happy with the current arrangement and think we should stick with it," he told reporters. "I do not see the sense in having a debate until it is clear what the strategy of the euro zone is ... When the discussion about the strategy is done then we can build the structure behind it."

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, often mentioned as the likely next chairman of euro zone finance ministers after Dijsselbloem ends his term in mid-January, said he hoped the 19 countries sharing the euro would reach agreement on further integration within a few months.

"Our common goal is the improvement of the situation of the European citizen and our common goal is to build a stronger Europe vis-a-vis the United States and vis-a-vis China," he said.

Le Maire said the moment for deciding reforms of the euro zone was now, because the euro zone economy was growing, France had just elected a reform-minded president -- Emmanuel Macron - and Germany would have a new mandate for changes after the Sept. 24 elections.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the task of revamping the single currency area was urgent.

"It's about how do we make Europe politically and economically stronger and able to act. How do we do that? That is the urgent task," he said. (Reporting By Jan Strupczewski and Philip Blenkinsop, editing by Larry King)