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A CFO for Europe, top EU official says

Officials mapped out a strategy for deeper fiscal union for the single currency

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The European Union needs a chief financial officer who can allay investor concerns, but is answerable to national parliaments as the euro zone forges closer economic ties, a senior European commissioner said on Thursday.

"My conviction is that we should have an EU finance minister, subject to strong democratic control from the European Parliament and national parliaments," Michel Barnier, the EU commissioner responsible for the single market and regulation, said in a speech delivered in Washington.

The call comes as the 17 states using the euro seek to forge closer bonds to reassure investors about the currency's future.

But while this drive is set to give the European Commission wider powers to monitor euro zone state spending, countries remain protective of their national sovereignty and would resist such a centralisation of power.

Barnier's suggestions are designed to address criticism that integration in Europe, including the drive for closer economic ties in the euro zone, comes at the cost of citizens being able to determine how the bloc is run.

In a document prepared ahead of last month's summit of euro zone leaders, officials mapped out a strategy for deeper fiscal union that envisages a treasury for the single currency.

The euro zone should also merge the posts of the chief of the EU's executive, the European Commission, and that of the president of the European Council, who hosts leaders' meetings, Barnier said.

"At some point in the future, I also believe that we should combine the role of the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council," he said.

Barnier has previously suggested that the role, which he has termed the president of the European Union, could be initially appointed by an assembly of national parliaments and the European parliament and later be directly elected by citizens.

Neither commissioners nor president Jose Manuel Barroso are elected to the EU executive arm, European Commission. It has wide powers, such as drafting law.


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