French president François Hollande pleaded in favour of finding a better way out of the crisis, forging an integrated Europe and securing an EU budget with sufficient means during a debate in the EP ahead of the Brussels summit on the long-term budget on 7-8 February. Mr Hollande also talked about the intervention in Mali during the discussion with MEPs on 5 February. Most political groups expressed their support for the military campaign and asked French support for a growth-generating budget.
Mr Holland said there are still lessons to be learnt from the eurozone crisis. "There can be no respite as long as one out of two people is out of work in some countries." The French president argued for initiatives to promote growth and better coordination of economic policies in order to strengthen the EU's economy, adding: "I refuse to condemn Europe to austerity without end."
He called for an EU budget that includes savings that do not weaken the economy, has sufficient money earmarked for agriculture and support for poorer regions, while still promoting innovation and protecting the most vulnerable.
Talking about Mali, Mr Hollande said there was no time to lose as it would have left more room for terrorism.
Crisis not over
José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, warned: "The crisis is not over yet. The unemployment rate is unacceptable. The reform of our competitiveness is crucial. In order to guarantee a sustainable growth we need investment and the instrument for that is the EU's budget."
Need for change
In the debate with Mr Hollande, MEPs discussed the role of the EU's budget and what changes would be necessary to revive Europe's economy.
Jospeh Daul, the French leader of the EPP group, spoke out against the Council proposals for the EU's next long-term budget: "These proposals are going in the wrong direction, attacking one of our best tools to generate growth - the European budget - of which 94% goes back to the member states. The proposal we have today is a political capitulation and we are going to reject it."
Hannes Swoboda, the Austrian leader of the S&D group, said "The cost of unemployment is extraordinary. We have a growth pack, but we now need to flesh it out to create jobs. Europe needs a balanced, forward-looking approach."
A solution in times of austerity could be to better pool resources in areas such as defence and innovation, according to Guy Verhofstadt, the Belgian leader of the ALDE group. He added: "Europe has no future unless we move towards a federation."
Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the French co-chair of the Green group, also stressed the importance of a good budget: "As there is a recession in the member states, we need an EU budget that can reinvigorate those economies."
Martin Callanan, the British chair of the ECR group, questioned Mr Hollande's ideas about the single market: "For you the single market means harmonised labour rules, taxes and economic policies. For me, it means competing with each other to become more competitive in the international market."
Philippe De Villiers, the French vice-chair of the EFD group, commented: "People no longer share your dream of bringing together and integrating Europe's nations. Today the public is moving away from it."
Gabriele Zimmer, the German chair of the GUE/NGL group, said: "Austerity leads to loss in growth. Austerity and wage restraint is toxic." She also said that military intervention in Mali is the wrong path to follow as the medium and long term consequences are not yet clear.