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Business

Top EU officials propose eurozone reform

With investors on tenterhooks over Greece's debt drama, top EU officials have laid out plans to fundamentally reform the eurozone. The timing of the report during a pivotal week for the bloc's future was coincidental.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker suggested Monday concrete steps to stabilize the eurozone, including tighter joint control over member countries' economies and stricter punishment for those that flout fiscal requirements.

The report, bearing the official title, "Completing Europe's Economic and Monetary Union," was commissioned last year by EU leaders hoping to map out ways to prevent the kind of instability seen in the last few years amid a global recession.

It included short-term measures that could take effect within two years, such as a common bank deposit insurance system, but also longer term ideas that were also more ambitious, like establishing a common eurozone treasury.

Juncker authored his report alongside four other top EU officials, including European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi, European Council President Donald Tusk, European Parliament President Martin Schulz and Jeroen Dijsselbloem, head of the finance ministers of the euro group.

Multiple stages

To better coordinate members' economic policies, the report proposed a full-time Eurogroup president and common eurozone representation in international bodies like the International Monetary Fund.

However, in order to be able to speak with one voice in international financial bodies like the IMF, countries like Germany or France would have to give up their voting rights there.

The report also suggested quickly setting up national competitiveness authorities that would press governments to pursue policies promoting productivity and economic growth. It called for greater efforts to lift employment and said audits of national budgets should be more "forceful" in order to reform shaky pension systems.

Recent measures to combat the euro crisis could also be enshrined in new EU law by 2025 but that would require acceptance by member countries' national parliaments.

The EU heads of state and government will have a first chance to discuss the Five Presidents Report at a summit on Thursday and Friday in Brussels that may be still dominated by efforts to prevent Greece from defaulting on its debts and keep the country in the eurozone.

tko/cjc (Reuters, EU Commission)

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