EU countries should act on their economic reform pledges, say MEPs
EU countries need to act more like owners of economic policy reform pledges they themselves signed up to, MEPs stress in a report adopted on Wednesday. Given that only 10% of the European Commission's country-specific reform recommendations (CSRs) for 2013 were implemented in full and that little or no progress was made on 45% of them, MEPs believe "there is an inconsistency between European commitment and national implementation of the CSRs by member states".
The resolution drafted by Philippe de Backer (ALDE, BE) on the implementation of “European Semester” economic reform priorities for 2014 was approved by 426 votes to 240, with 10 abstentions.
"I am happy that the report won the backing of a majority of Parliament. It gives a clear signal that we have to get on track with implementing the necessary reforms and that flexibility can apply only if a reform agenda is set in motion. This is sorely needed, given the fragile state of the European economy ", Mr De Backer said.
Parliament underlines that acting on CSRs - endorsed by the European Council on 26/27 June and adopted by the Council of Ministers on 8 July - is a prerequisite for achieving economic coordination across the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), and that this coordination is in turn vital to ensure the financial and economic stability and competitiveness needed to foster growth and job creation.
Looking forward to the next European Semester round, MEPs argue that the policy of growth-friendly fiscal consolidation should continue, but that more emphasis should be placed on growth-enhancing reforms and policies, "especially by those member states that have fiscal space to invest". They call on the Commission to set in motion the €300 billion European investment programme proposed by Jean-Claude Juncker as a matter of urgency, so as to help stimulate recovery without delay.
Flexibility in Stability and Growth Pact if structural reforms are underway
The report points out that the Stability and Growth Pact allows member states a degree of flexibility in implementing the CSRs, provided that credible, structural reforms have been initiated. MEPs urge that this flexibility should be exploited. Fiscal consolidation and sustainability is nevertheless considered a prerequisite for growth.
Parliament calls, inter alia, for a common EU labour market and a common immigration policy. It recommends simplifying tax systems and taking urgent action to fight tax fraud and tax evasion. It also calls on the Commission to complete the single market, especially in services and capital, and urges EU member states to invest in research and innovation as agreed in the “Europe2020” strategy.
The current low level of vital private investment, and especially the dearth of finance for small and medium-sized enterprises, poses a huge obstacle to growth, the report says. "Only by modernising our economies, making them more competitive and attracting public and private investments, can Europe get back on track", said Mr De Backer.
MEPs stress the importance of complementing the Banking Union with an insurance- and markets union and the need to get more young people into the workforce. Free movement of people should not be hampered by protectionist tendencies, they add.
MEPs ask the Commission to make quarterly reports to Parliament on progress in implementing CSRs. They also invite member states which fall behind to come to Parliament to explain the reasons for their non-compliance with the CSRs. They add that the Eurogroup President should also include a progress report in his assessment of national budget plans for 2015, which were due by mid-October 2014.