Richard North, 31/10/2013  

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"The US can inspire us", says Viviane Reding, speaking at Yale University yesterday.

Speaking to her American audience, the justice commissioner and vice-president of the European Commission, then says: "We should start moving towards a United States of Europe - a model of government that draws the right lessons from the errors of the past: a model that further deepens the political and democratic foundations of the European Union".

She goes on to say that, "Perhaps one day in the future we will need a directly elected President of the European Commission. The Presidential election campaign in the USA has shown us what a mobilising effect such a decision about a single person can have for a whole continent".

Then, looking closer to the future, she declares that "we certainly need is a European Finance Minister". Reding says the EU needs, "One person who protects the interests of all Member States and speaks for them in international institutions". Like the US Finance Minister, Jack Lew, she adds, "He is responsible for the federal budget and the interest of the US as a whole – not for the finances of Ohio".

Reding thus puts herself alongside German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who has in the past also called for a Union finance minister. But she refused to state whether she would accept a Commission president chosen by the European Parliament for next term. MEPs are currently expressing a wish that the group that wins most votes at the euro-elections next May should make the nomination.

This, though, is not the first time of late that Reding has strayed into controversial areas, in September telling the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies that EU treaty amendments were necessary, not least to make the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights directly applicable in the Member States.

Raising scary headlines at the time, Reding is thus acquiring a reputation as a bellweather of treaty change. It is premature yet to see open talk of a new treaty, until Merkel has settled the final shape of her government, but the justice commissioner is keeping her place warm, reminding us that we are still on a countdown to a new treaty.

The odd thing is that, while Reding attracted widespread media coverage in September, this time European coverage seems only to have amounted to a couple of reports in the German media. As always, therefore, legacy media coverage is hit and miss, but then we have Rebekah Brooks to keep the media happy, so the EU won't get a look in.


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