European Affairs

Book Review: S’il est minuit en Europe by Pierre Moscovici     Print Email

jacquelinegrapin2015cIn this important book, “If it is midnight in Europe,” published in French, Pierre Moscovici, European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs since 2014, anticipates the ways by which Europe will avoid being destroyed by various waves of nationalism and populism in its member countries. He warns against undermining the European project and conveys a sense of urgency.

French Minister of European Affairs from 1997 to 2002, Vice President of the European Parliament from 2004 to 2007, Moscovici was involved deeply in the European enlargement process. Although his father was born in Romania, and his mother in Poland, he is convinced retrospectively that the enlargement of the European Community from 12 countries to 28 countries was a major mistake. It was done without a redefinition of the European institutions that were originally planned for six member States. While these institutions were optimal for 12 countries, they proved dysfunctional for a Union of 24 and then 28 members, especially since no effort had been made initially to agree on a common vision of what these countries wanted in the future or how to get there. This leads Moscovici to being opposed to any new enlargement, particularly with Turkey . He analyzes in details the various causes of the present difficulties, and how they can be overcome at a moment when European integration is more necessary than ever for Europeans as well as for others.

In this book, he stresses the initiatives already under way to correct the situation, as well as new measures for a “Security Union” that should be initiated in order to address the growing sense of vulnerability among Europeans. Moscovici lists five priorities:

(1) secure more seriously the outside borders;
(2) organize a “humanitarian corridor” to channel the migrants (whose numbers will not diminish in the future);
(3) organize more cooperation with Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon;
(4) define European cooperation policies to improve education and access to the labor markets for migrants;
(5) create a European Homeland Security Fund to finance the operations through a mix of public and private sources.

He considers the possibility of selling on the open markets debt guaranteed by the European States. This would not be a permanent euro bond, but a limited and specialized program to allow the necessary public investments in this field. Other financial measures would be reinforced, including limiting the anonymity of payments, and reinforcing cooperation among the various financial intelligence services such as France’s Tracfin.

Moscovici supports the proposal made by Thierry Breton, a former French minister of finance, to create a European Fund for Defense and Security. This fund could take over the debt contracted by countries from the euro zone to organize their reimbursement over a long period of time.

His perspective on European economic policy is to favor growth rather than search for austerity. Priority must be given to investments and using the euro as an economic engine by reinforcing the rules regulating public expenditures of the governments and modernizing the budgetary process in the euro zone. A European Convergence Fund could be created to invest in European infrastructures where needed. In a second phase, this fund could be used as a counter-cyclical instrument to reduce economic slow-downs. A European Minister of finance should be nominated, who would be Vice-President of the European Commission, and would chair the Euro group. A European Treasury would also be created to serve as his financial instrument. The minister of finance would be responsible to the European parliament.

Moscovici insists on the need to recognize that the future of Europe, including a new European patriotism, will be redefined, first and foremost, among the 19 countries members of the euro zone, with dynamic initiatives in the fields of competition, trade, and economic policies, including economic diplomacy. The euro will generate progress in Europe whereas, without the euro, the region will stagnate. Maintaining the status quo is not enough. Even though it will be necessary to wait for the French and the German elections in 2017 to agree on a new approach within the Eurozone, “it is not possible to wait one more year to think about what it should include.”

The powerful last chapter of the book on “reconquering tax sovereignty” is a must read for businessmen and politicians who have an interest in the evolution in tax issues. It comes last, but not least. And a useful checklist of 43 main proposals mentioned in the book follows it-- a European Commissioner’s warning not to be ignored.

Jacqueline Grapin is founder of the European Institute and Co-Chair of The Board of Directors.

S’il est minuit en Europe by Pierre Moscovici

–Published on November 2nd - Grasset Editeur - 266 pages –