But now, in the last few days, as Europe’s economy and the single currency stand on the precipice, these same leaders have begun to eat their words.
On Tuesday, German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble called for the second time in a week for changes to the treaties. “Strengthening the eurozone's architecture ... may need profound treaty changes,” he wrote in an opinion piece for the Financial Times.
According to populist daily Bild, the finance minister made the argument for a major shift in fiscal policy-making powers to Brussels, a move that would almost certainly necessitate a fresh opening of the treaties holding the bloc together. This must be done, he said, “even though we know how difficult a treaty change will be.”
The outgoing head of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, for his part on Monday told participants at a Paris conference that the bloc required a European “federal government with a federal finance minister."
"We are discovering that we cannot live with this incompleteness any more."
Gerhard Schroeder, the former German chancellor on Sunday said “Countries will have to give up some of their national sovereignty.” His vision involves fiscal powers being given to the commission or a European finance minister under the control of the European Parliament as “the ultimate authority”. “The commission will have to be turned into a government that is controlled, in parliamentary terms, by the European Parliament. That translates into a United States of Europe.”
A newly established think-tank, the Council on the Future of Europe, whose members include Schroeder, Tony Blair, former commission president Jacques Delors, former Spanish prime minister Felipe Gonzalez and economists Nouriel Roubini and Joseph Stiglitz on Monday issued a manifesto that called not just full fiscal union, but for parallel political union.
“It will be necessary to further lay out a vision of a federation that goes beyond a fiscal and economic mandate to include a common security, energy, climate, immigration and foreign policy as well as develop a common narrative about the future of the union and its place in the world,” the document read. “Nation states will need to share certain dimensions of sovereignty to a central European entity that would have the capacity to source revenue at the federal level in order to provide European-wide public goods.”