European Semester: act on your economic policy pledges, MEPs urge EU countries
EU countries need to do more to put their EU economic policy reform pledges into effect at home, especially in the euro area, urged Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee MEPs on Monday. Noting 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 also pressed the Commission and the Eurogroup President to see that they are put into practice.
Committee members believe that acting on CSRs - which EU member states themselves endorsed in “European Semester” economic policy coordination talks - is a prerequisite for achieving economic convergence across the EU Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), and that this convergence is in turn vital to ensure the financial and economic stability needed to foster growth and job creation.
The committee approved a report by Philippe de Backer (ALDE, BE) on the implementation of European Semester reform priorities for 2014, which reminds member states of their agreements made in Brussels and their national responsibility for implementing the necessary structural reforms.
"We need to see an ambitious reform agenda in the member states and sound public finances. This is the smartest and most sustainable way to growth and job creation", Mr De Backer said.
MEPs want 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. Furthermore, the Eurogroup President should also include a progress report in his assessment of national budget plans for 2015, which is to be tabled by mid-October 2014.
Member states should overcome domestic political opposition to modernising their economies, social security systems, pension systems and health care in order to avoid imposing excessive burdens on future generations, the report says. Looking forward to the next European Semester round, MEPs say that the policy of growth-friendly fiscal consolidation should continue, but that more emphasis should be placed on growth-enhancing reforms and policies. "We have to start investing right now, together with the private sector, so that we can have a return on investment in the long term", Mr De Backer added. The €300 billion investment programme recently announced by Commission President designate Juncker was welcomed.
Committee members call for a common EU labour market and a common, modern immigration policy. They recommend simplifying tax systems and taking urgent action to fight tax fraud and tax evasion. They also call on the Commission to complete the single market, especially in the field of services and capital, and urge 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. MEPs also stress the importance of complementing the Banking Union with an insurance- and markets union and the need to integrate more young people into the work force.
The report is set to be debated and voted in the October plenary session. Exact date and time TBC.
In the chair: Roberto GUALTIERI (S&D, IT)