November 9, 2011 / 1:40 PM / 8 years ago

EU needs smaller, deeper group - Germany's Fischer

BERLIN (Reuters) - A European Union with 27 members is incapable of agreeing needed reforms and the time has come to think about forming a smaller group of nations to advance the cause before it is too late, former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said.

“Let’s just forget about the EU with 27 members — unfortunately,” Fischer said in an interview with the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit. “I just don’t see how these 27 states will ever come up with any meaningful reforms.”

Fischer, a strong pro-Europe voice in Germany as foreign minister from 1998 to 2005, said the EU was under threat at the moment because of the euro zone debt crisis and he criticised the German government for poor leadership.

“We’ve got the worst German government since 1949,” he said, but added Germany was strong enough to cope with that.

“We’ve got to watch out that we don’t lose Europe,” he said. “At the moment there is a great risk of that happening. The continent will survive without the euro but it would then nevertheless be dead as a political and cultural project.”

Fischer said an “avant-garde” of the 17 euro zone nations could effectively take away the power from the 27 states. He said the smaller group should form a tighter group, following the lead of the Schengen passport-free travel zone in the EU.

“What we need now is a 10-point plan for Europe, for a political union,” Fischer said, adding Europe was heading towards a “transfer union” in the future in which wealthier nations would provide assistance to the less prosperous.

“Anyone who denies that is just lying to themselves,” Fischer said. Germans are nevertheless overwhelmingly opposed to any system where wealthier countries are obligated to support the poorer states.

Fischer said a euro chamber was worth considering, a body in which leaders from the national parliaments would take part. They would thus hold dual national and European responsibilities, Fischer said.

“So those who have a say in their parliaments back home can also have a say in Europe,” Fischer said.

Reporting By Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Noah Barkin

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