* Report charts path for tighter integration in euro zone
* Paper from EU's Van Rompuy recommends central budget
* Report suggests countries pool short-term funding
* Van Rompuy says no clear-cut concept yet on budget
(Adds comments by Van Rompuy in Helsinki)
By Luke Baker and John O'Donnell
BRUSSELS, Oct 12 Euro zone states should
consider clubbing together to borrow as well as paying into a
central budget that could be used to help struggling peers,
according to a report prepared for a meeting of EU leaders.
The interim report charts a path towards closer fiscal
integration among the 17 countries using the euro as they
struggle to contain an economic crisis. It was prepared by
Herman Van Rompuy, who as president of the European Council will
chair a European Union summit next week.
In the interim paper, obtained by Reuters on Friday,
officials write of the need to explore a central budget for
countries in the euro zone.
Van Rompuy's thinking - firmly backed by Germany - is that
some form of "fiscal capacity" among the euro-area countries
would allow them to iron out labour market and other
socio-economic imbalances that build up in the bloc.
The fund could be used to help a country such as Spain,
which has unemployment of 25 percent and is struggling to
reinvigorate growth. In exchange for budget rigour, the pan-euro
zone fund could provide targeted assistance.
"One of the functions of such a new fiscal capacity would be
to facilitate adjustments to country-specific shocks by
providing for some degree of absorption at the central level,"
The 27 countries in the European Union currently finance a
budget which amounts to around 130 billion euros a year - 1
percent of EU output - and which is used for spending on
agriculture, science, infrastructure and other areas.
But there is no equivalent budget among the 17 countries
that share the euro, a shortcoming that many economists believe
has undermined the stability of the currency project.
Germany and France strongly support the proposal and, in a
surprise to many EU diplomats, Britain does too, but for
different reasons. London sees a euro zone budget as a way of
further separating Britain and its increasingly EU-sceptical
electorate from the currency bloc and its problems.
Van Rompuy, visiting Helsinki on Friday, said the idea of
the single euro zone budget would not "imply or necessitate
permanent transfers" from one state to another. But he also
stressed that he was not making any concrete proposals for now.
"I simply propose that we examine further some of these
ideas ... Also on the so called euro zone budget ... There is
no clear-cut concept to this at this stage."
Prepared in conjunction with European Commission president
Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Central Bank,
Mario Draghi, and Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the
Eurogroup of finance ministers, the report also addresses the
contested idea of pooling country borrowing.
It advocates examining "the pooling of some short term
sovereign funding instruments, for example, treasury bills, on a
limited and conditional basis". The report is due to be
finalised in December.
Such a move in the short term would be viewed sceptically by
Berlin, which is reluctant to see weaker euro states piggyback
on its economic strength in order to borrow more cheaply.
Berlin may however be prepared to consider such a step in
the distant future after Europe has taken significant steps
towards a tighter political and fiscal union.
Van Rompuy also said in Helsinki the November summit of
European leaders should agree on a future framework for the
whole European Union's budget, acknowledging the difficulty of
finding a compromise among the member states.
(Additional reporting by Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Catherine