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Greatest challenge facing Europe may be to share a vision

LONDON -- It's 2025 and Angela Merkel, Europe's first democratically elected president, is reviewing a crowded agenda for the new session of the increasingly powerful European Parliament.

The head of the European Monetary Fund is recommending a big increase in the by now well-established financial transactions and carbon taxes to fund emergency transfers from Brussels to the European Union's new Balkan members.

Merkel must also overcome lingering opposition to her proposal to re-admit Greece to the euro, 12 years after Athens pulled out of the single currency because of popular unrest over the austerity measures she had championed as German chancellor.

The ensuing financial cataclysm and economic depression galvanized the euro's remaining members to seek shelter in what many had dismissed as unthinkable — full political and fiscal union.

The proposal, co-authored by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, said the eurozone should push ahead with a banking union and a budgetary union, possibly leading to the creation of a treasury office that could issue common debt.

Critically, they added, for the plan to succeed Europe's voters must rally behind such a surrender of sovereignty. The summit tasked Van Rompuy to deliver by the end of the year a firm timetable for fiscal union.

In Portugal, which has already had to accept strict external supervision of its budget as the price of a 78-billion-euro bailout, some regard the prospect of handing greater fiscal power to Brussels as a natural evolution.

That legitimacy could come via much greater sway for the European Parliament or even from the direct election of the president of the European Commission, the EU's executive arm currently headed by Jose Manuel Barroso.

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