Parliament approves its economic, social and single market priorities for 2016
Parliament's economic, social and single market priorities for 2016 were adopted on Thursday in three separate resolutions. MEPs gave their input to the upcoming March economic summit, focusing on the implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact, its social aspects and how to further exploit the economic potential of the single market.
Flexibility for investment and structural reforms
The resolution by Maria João Rodrigues (S&D, PT), approved by 395 votes to 203 with 50 abstentions, stresses that the Stability and Growth Pact should be implemented in full and that its room for flexibility should be used for investment and structural reforms and to deal with refugee and security challenges. MEPs also advocate a shift away from labour taxation, better national follow-up of country-specific recommendations, more domestic investments in countries with high current account surpluses and action against aggressive corporate tax planning.
Ms Rodrigues said that "At a time of several crises, we need to reinforce the EU's internal cohesion with a stronger and more balanced economic recovery. What Europe needs today is a stronger focus on investment and domestic demand, especially given the Eurozone's very high external surplus. At the same time, a second generation of reforms needs to take place, improving education, innovation, public administration, tax collection and ensuring sustainable and fair welfare systems which reduce social inequalities."
A resolution prepared by Sofia Ribeiro (EPP, PT), approved by 404 votes to 201 with 35 abstentions, stresses the importance of the employment indicators recently included in the Annual Growth Survey for monitoring social developments in member states too. MEPs want an EU-wide definition of “social fairness”, to which the employment and social policies should adhere, in particular when applying structural reforms which hit vulnerable groups hardest. Finally, they argue that national governments should gradually shift taxes from labour to other taxable sources.
Ms Ribeiro said that "The introduction of social indicators - activity rate, youth unemployment and long-term unemployment - will ensure the evaluation of internal imbalances in member states, thus keeping a possibility to reshape their economic and social reforms when necessary. This is a big step allowing us to strengthen the social pillar in the European Semester process, responding to the expectations, concerns and needs of our citizens."
Single market integration and SMEs
In a resolution prepared by Catherine Stihler (S&D, UK), approved by 462 votes to 166 with 7 abstentions, MEPs reiterate a call to include a “single market pillar” in the European Semester, with a system for regular monitoring, identification of country-specific barriers to the single market, and an evaluation of its integration and competitiveness. The focus should be on growth and jobs, including SMEs, they add.
Ms Stihler said that "The single market is a fundamentally important resource which the European Union’s future economic prosperity depends upon. Its untapped potential, estimated at €1 trillion, is an opportunity to ensure that it works for all of us. To effectively deliver on jobs, growth and competitiveness, the progress of integration of the member states in the single market must be accompanied by better governance and greater transparency, including the enforcement and implementation of existing EU legislation."
Report in ECON: 2015/2285(INI)
Report in EMPL: 2015/2330(INI)
Report in IMCO: 2015/2256(INI)
Procedure: non-legislative resolutions