Je vous invite à lire ci-dessous l’article publié aujourd’hui dans le Financial Times suite à mon interview par le quotidien économique britannique.
“I’ve got a duty of objectivity”
By Peter Spiegel in Brussels
If Pierre Moscovici harbours any resentment for the intense campaign waged by the German government against his candidacy for the EU’s top economic job, he certainly does not show it.
“One thing was clear to me, and that was there was nothing personal,” said the former French finance minister of Berlin’s lobbying effort. This included the very public musing by Germany’s Wolfgang Schäuble, his one-time counterpart, about whether France deserved the post given Paris’ multiyear breach of EU deficit limits.
It was legitimate, the way that those questions were raised in the German public debate. It’s also necessary now that we move forward.
“I imagine he wondered – and other people in Germany, too – whether this job should be given to a Frenchman due to the situation in France,” Mr Moscovici said. “It was legitimate, the way that those questions were raised in the German public debate. It’s also necessary now that we move forward.”
Just how Mr Moscovici moves forward as the EU’s new economic affairs commissioner will be one of the most intensely scrutinised questions facing Jean-Claude Juncker’s incoming European Commission when it takes office in November.
Mr Moscovici will have to pass judgment on a French budget he presided over less than six months ago. On the day he was named to the EU post last week his successor announced that Paris would exceed the EU’s deficit limits again next year, despite promising to get below the ceiling of 3 per cent of economic output.
Mr Moscovici also becomes the central player in a debate that threatens to divide the common currency’s north from south in ways not seen since the height of the eurozone crisis: whether Brussels should loosen its tough fiscal rules to spur growth.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Moscovici insisted that while he would not check his nationality or his centre-left politics at the door, he vowed to be as tough on France as any other country, saying the EU’s existing fiscal rules would be his guidepost.
Flexibility is not indulgence, flexibility is not complacency, flexibility is not weakness.
“We’re not obliged to apply the rules stupidly or rigidly,” Mr Moscovici said. “We can have a dose, a certain dose of flexibility. But flexibility is not indulgence, flexibility is not complacency, flexibility is not weakness. Flexibility cannot be applied to one single country due to one single status.”
At the same time, Mr Moscovici said he supported President François Hollande’s current budget plans – as a still-sitting French MP, he was preparing to back the government in a confidence vote on Tuesday – though he insisted that would not cloud his objectivity when the new budget is presented for the official European Commission evaluation next month.
“Those reforms – which lead as well to cuts in public expenditure and help a pro-business attitude and structural reforms – have to be made,” he said. “Are they sufficient? The commissioner will have to estimate that. But it’s better than nothing.”
Officials close to Mr Juncker said even though Mr Hollande lobbied hard for Mr Moscovici to get the post, the ultimate decision was part of a broader “Nixon to China” strategy in which several commissioners may be forced to take tough stances against their home countries’ interest, including Britain’s Lord Hill in the financial services portfolio and Germany’s Günther Oettinger overseeing internet regulation.
At a news conference announcing his new commission, Mr Juncker hinted at that strategy, noting that Mr Moscovici would be “well-placed” to explain the “substance, the justification” of EU budget decisions to the French public.
I’ve got a duty of objectivity.
“If I was too indulgent or complacent to France, my credibility and the credibility of the commission would be immediately ruined,” Mr Moscovici said. “This is something I must absolutely avoid, and I will avoid. That doesn’t mean I have a duty of ingratitude; that is not the point. But I’ve got a duty of objectivity.”
Despite Mr Moscovici’s promises, Mr Juncker has decided to give two former prime ministers with reputations for fiscal discipline – Finland’s Jyrki Katainen and Latvia’s Valdis Dombrovskis – vice-president slots with responsibility for overseeing economic policy.
Many in Brussels view the move as a way for two allies of Mr Schäuble, who has resisted any loosening of EU budget rules, to box in the Frenchman.
While Mr Moscovici acknowledges the three men may disagree on policy, he said he was unconcerned by the new structure, adding that Mr Juncker has already moved to pre-empt internecine disputes by tasking the trio to jointly produce a paper on the new commission’s view on what “flexibility” in the existing budget rules really means.
When you are the commission, you must have the commission language.
“To me, one thing is clear: We cannot fight against each other,” he said. “There can’t be bureaucratic competition. We have to have the same language. We will have the same language. You cannot have a conservative language and a progressive language about that. When you are the commission, you must have the commission language.”