Economic governance: MEPs demand quick action
Economic and monetary affairs - 06-07-2010 - 19:53
The European Parliament's political group representatives called on Tuesday for a stronger role for the European Commission in economic governance and a greater focus on social fairness, during a debate with Commission President José Manuel Barroso.
Mr Barroso outlined the Commission's new plans for European economic governance, as presented by Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn last week. "We need a refined incentives and sanctions tool-box. Without this, we will not be able to enforce economic governance effectively. And the sanctions must be quasi-automatic" he said.
The fact that the Commission had taken this initiative instead of just waiting for the results of the Council's task force on economic governance was welcomed by the first MEP to take the floor, Corien Wortmann-Kool (NL) of the EPP group. "We want a stronger and more independent role for the Commission." she said, adding that the success of the plan would depend on the details and on the Council's willingness to cooperate with the other institutions. "We want deeds not words. The Council must now become active on financial supervision."
The liberal group leader, Guy Verhofstadt (BE), supported the idea of a strong role for the Commission. "The main question is - who is going to be responsible for managing economic governance? Will it be the Council? The Member States? Or an EU body? For the European Parliament it is clear: it must be an EU body. The Member States were never able to supervise themselves, and they will not in the future."
Mr Verhofstadt also called for sanctions to be part of not only the Stability and Growth Pact but also of other areas, for instance the EU 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. "We also have to focus on economic growth policy and not only on debt reduction. We need a credible strategy for growth", he said.
Stephen Hughes (UK) from the S&D group said that last week's proposal lacked balance. "You say, Mr Barroso, that you do not believe that social exclusion is an acceptable price to pay, but that seems to be the path you're treading... Austerity alone will lead to further slow growth. Rapid fiscal consolidation alone will not work." Instead, he called for more "social fairness" and suggested a shift in taxation, saying "Taxation on labour is far too high in many Member States."
Sven Giegold (DE), of the Greens/EFA group, also urged greater coordination of taxation policy. "We cannot have tax havens; there cannot be companies that are not taxed", he said. He warned about the temptation to relapse into old patterns for solving the crisis. "We need to look at the causes of the crises. It is not enough to coordinate budgets - the budgetary policy has to become anti-cyclical to combat the crisis."
For the ECR group, Kay Swinburne (UK) said the new institutions for economic governance needed to be apolitical. "The new supervisory authorities are necessary and need to be set up as soon as possible. They need to work effectively with national supervisory authorities and not focus on whether we have more or less Europe."
Lothar Bisky (DE), for the GUE/NGL group, thought that the proposals from the Commission were going "completely in the wrong direction". He said "All the new governance model is calling for is more sanctions. This has not worked in the past and will not work in the future... The Stability and Growth Pact must include criteria like employment and tackling poverty. We need a deep reform [of the pact] not just a strengthening [of the current system]".
The EFD group's speaker Godfrey Bloom (UK) said that the "currency experiment" was doomed to failure from the start. "I gave it ten years and I am afraid it looks like I was right", he said.
Answering the comments from the political groups, Mr Barroso agreed that growth, education and the fight against poverty were crucial parts of the EU2020 strategy. Regarding the financial supervisory authorities, he said that the Commission expected them to get started at the beginning of next year. He thanked the Parliament for the ambitions it had shown so far and urged MEPs to make every effort to reach an agreement with the Council in the next few days.