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Wednesday, 14 March 2018 - Strasbourg Final edition
European Semester for economic policy coordination: Annual Growth Survey 2018

European Parliament resolution of 14 March 2018 on the European Semester for economic policy coordination: Annual Growth Survey 2018 (2017/2226(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and in particular Articles 121(2), 136 and 148 thereof,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1175/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 November 2011 amending Council Regulation (EC) No 1466/97 on the strengthening of the surveillance of budgetary positions and the surveillance and coordination of economic policies(1),

–  having regard to Council Directive 2011/85/EU of 8 November 2011 on requirements for budgetary frameworks of the Member States(2),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1174/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 November 2011 on enforcement measures to correct excessive macroeconomic imbalances in the euro area(3),

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EU) No 1177/2011 of 8 November 2011 amending Regulation (EC) No 1467/97 on speeding up and clarifying the implementation of the excessive deficit procedure(4),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1176/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 November 2011 on the prevention and correction of macroeconomic imbalances(5),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1173/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 November 2011 on the effective enforcement of budgetary surveillance in the euro area(6),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 473/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on common provisions for monitoring and assessing draft budgetary plans and ensuring the correction of excessive deficit of the Member States in the euro area(7),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 472/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on the strengthening of economic and budgetary surveillance of Member States in the euro area experiencing or threatened with serious difficulties with respect to their financial stability(8),

–  having regard to the assessment of the European Fiscal Board of 20 June 2017 on the prospective fiscal stance appropriate for the euro area,

–  having regard to the conclusions of the European Council of 25-26 March 2010 and 17 June 2010, as well as to the Commission communication of 3 March 2010 entitled ‘Europe 2020: A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ (COM(2010)2020),

–  having regard to Council Recommendation (EU) 2015/1184 of 14 July 2015 on broad guidelines for the economic policies of the Member States and of the European Union(9),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2015/1017 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 June 2015 on the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the European Investment Advisory Hub and the European Investment Project Portal and amending Regulations (EU) No 1291/2013 and (EU) No 1316/2013 – the European Fund for Strategic Investments(10),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 13 January 2015 on making the best use of the flexibility within the existing rules of the Stability and Growth Pact (COM(2015)0012),

–  having regard to its resolution of 24 June 2015 on the review of the economic governance framework: stocktaking and challenges(11),

–  having regard to the Report on completing Europe’s economic and monetary union (‘Five Presidents’ Report’),

–  having regard to the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 21 October 2015 on steps towards Completing Economic and Monetary Union (COM(2015)0600),

–  having regard to the Commission’s communication of 6 December 2017 on further steps towards completing the Economic and Monetary Union (COM(2017)0821),

–  having regard to the Commission’s European Economic Forecast of Autumn 2017,

–  having regard to the studies and in-depth analyses on economic policy coordination in the euro area under the European Semester prepared for the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (November 2015),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 26 November 2015 on the Annual Growth Survey 2016 (COM(2015)0690), the Alert Mechanism Report 2016 (COM(2015)0691) and the draft Joint Employment Report (COM(2015)0700),

–  having regard the Interinstitutional Proclamation on the European Pillar of Social Rights signed and proclaimed in Gothenburg on 17 November 2017,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2017/825 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 May 2017 on the establishment of the Structural Reform Support Programme for the period 2017 to 2020 and amending Regulations (EU) No 1303/2013 and (EU) No 1305/2013,

–  having regard to its resolution of 17 December 2015 on completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union(12),

–  having regard to its recommendation of 13 December 2017 to the Council and the Commission following the inquiry into money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion(13),

–  having regard to the Commission recommendation of 22 November 2017 for a Council recommendation on the economic policy of the euro area (COM(2017)0770),

–  having regard to the debate with representatives of national parliaments on the priorities of the 2018 European Semester,

–  having regard to the debate with the Commission in the European Parliament on the European Semester package – Annual Growth Survey 2018,

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on Budgets, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, the Committee on Regional Development and the position in the form of amendments of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (A8-0047/2018),

A.  whereas, according to Commission forecasts, while the expansion of the European economy is expected to continue, the pace of job creation and household purchasing power growth implies a slight loss of momentum over the next two years, with growth reaching 2,4 % in 2017 in the EU and then marginally slowing down to 2,2 % in 2018 and to 2,0 % in 2019; whereas further policy action will nonetheless be required to address unresolved legacies of the global economic crisis;

B.  whereas the current situation of the EU’s economy calls for ambitious and socially balanced structural reforms and investment in Member States in order to bring about sustained growth, employment and competitiveness, and achieve upward convergence;

C.  whereas private consumption growth is expected to drop slightly this year before easing in 2019, as a result of higher inflation compared to 2017, although it is lower than the ECB target of below, but close to, 2 %;

D.  whereas the European Investment Bank and the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) have, in addition to the European Structural and Investment Funds, provided important support for investment in the EU; whereas, however, private investment still remains below 2008 levels, with negative implications for potential growth, job creation and productivity;

E.  whereas employment is expected to continue to expand, with a record 235,4 million people in jobs in the second quarter of 2017; while some labour market indicators suggest persistent difficulties, such as increasing labour market segmentation, aggravating inequalities, especially with regard to young people and those with low educational attainment; whereas unemployment stands at 7,5 % in the EU and 8,9 % in the euro area, which, while the lowest levels in nine and eight years, respectively, is still too high, particularly among young people; whereas very substantial differences between many Member States persist, and whereas employment rates have still some way to go to recover from the crisis and, not the least, to attain the Europe 2020 national targets; whereas hidden unemployment (of persons unemployed, willing to work, but not actively searching for employment) stood at 20 % in 2016;

F.  whereas, as a result of tax avoidance, tax evasion and tax fraud benefiting certain large corporations and individuals, several Member States have lost billions of euros in revenue for managing public finances, to the detriment of SMEs and other taxpayers;

G.  whereas the improved economic situation provides opportunities for implementing ambitious and socially balanced structural reforms, in particular measures to encourage investment, given that the level of investment as a proportion of GDP today is still lower than in the period immediately preceding the financial crisis, and to improve the situation with regard to public finances, taking into account the burden that demographic developments place on their debt sustainability;

1.  Takes note of the publication of the 2018 Annual Growth Survey (AGS) package and the proposed policy mix of investments, ambitious and socially balanced structural reforms and responsible public finances, presented as a means of further promoting higher growth levels and strengthening European recovery, upward convergence and competitiveness; agrees that further progress on the implementation of structural reform is needed to deliver on growth and jobs, and to carry on the fight against those inequalities that hamper economic growth;

Chapter 1 – Investments and growth

2.  Highlights the persistent structural problem of insufficient growth of potential output, productivity and competitiveness, associated with too low a level of public and private investment and a lack of ambitious and socially balanced structural reforms in some Member States;

3.  Recalls that some Member States still have large current account surpluses that could be used to sustain public and private investments and boost economic growth;

4.  Recalls the importance of combining public and private investment with structural reforms to boost and leverage economic growth;

5.  Underlines the importance of boosting public investment in the EU in order to remedy the current decrease in public investment; urges, moreover, the completion of the Capital Market Union with a view to boosting private investments across the single market; considers that the regulatory framework for private investment should be improved further;

6.  Stresses the need for more investments in research, development and innovation, as well as in technological modernisation, in order to boost productivity; recalls that investments in areas such as infrastructures, childcare, social housing, education, training, health, research, digital innovation and the circular economy can increase productivity and/or employment; calls on the Commission to address country-specific recommendations (CSRs) in the field of energy efficiency and resource consumption, and to ensure that CSRs are fully consistent with the Paris climate agreement;

7.  Asks the Commission to assess current obstacles to significant growth-enhancing infrastructure projects over the lifetime of such investments, and to discuss with Parliament and the Council ways to address such obstacles within the existing legal framework;

Chapter 2 – Responsible public finance

8.  Takes note of the overall neutral fiscal stance proposed in the recommendations for the euro area, noting that the fiscal stance is expected to be slightly expansionary in a number of Member States in 2018; recalls that consistent implementation and compliance with Union fiscal rules, including full respect of the existing flexibility clauses, are key to the proper functioning of the EMU;

9.  Underlines the fact that the fiscal stances at national and euro area level must balance the long-term sustainability of public finances and investment, in full compliance with the Stability and Growth Pact, with short-term macroeconomic stabilisation;

10.  Welcomes the improvements made in public finances, which is key to reach a more solid, sustainable and efficient growth, in particular the gradually declining debt-to-GDP ratios for the EU and euro area, and falling headline budget deficits, while emphasising that the gross debt-to-GDP ratio within the euro area still hovers around 90 %, with several Member States being well above that level; stresses that these Member states should reduce their high debt-to-GDP ratios as a matter of urgency, as this is markedly easier to do in times of economic recovery; recalls that ageing societies and other demographic developments place a massive burden on the sustainability of public finances; calls, therefore, on the Member States to take responsibility for future generations;

11.  Underlines the need for a stronger focus on the composition and management of national budgets; welcomes, therefore, the increasing practice of spending reviews. and further encourages Member States to assess the quality of their budgets;

Chapter 3 – Structural reforms

12.  Recalls that some Member States need to continue implementing socially and environmentally sustainable, growth-friendly structural reforms, in particular given the context of an improved economic situation across the EU, with GDP growth in almost all Member States, with a view to boosting competitiveness, job creation, growth and upward convergence;

13.  Insists on bringing expenditure on R&D closer to the EU 2020 targets; calls on the Member States to set in place proper policies, and to provide investment, to ensure or maintain equal access to lifelong education and training, taking into account the evolution of the labour market, including the emergence of new professions;

14.  Stresses that digitalisation, globalisation and technological change are radically transforming our labour markets, involving e.g. deep changes in employment forms and statuses which need an adapted transition; stresses, therefore, the importance of dynamic labour markets with accessible and high-quality social security systems, capable of responding to these new labour market realities;

15.  Considers that reforms removing investment bottlenecks would allow for immediate support for economic activity and, at the same time, set the conditions for long-term growth;

16.  Calls for taxation reviews aimed at achieving a fair balance of taxation on capital, labour and consumption;

Chapter 4 – Convergence and inclusion

17.  Underlines that the European Semester and the CSRs should contribute to the achievement of the objectives of EU 2020 strategy, including those set out in the Pillar of Social Rights, and should deliver on growth and jobs; welcomes, therefore, the ‘social scoreboard’ as a tool for monitoring the implementation of the Social Pillar;

18.  Highlights the fact that, in the recent period, real wage growth has lagged behind productivity growth, while improvements have occurred in the labour market; stresses, against this background, that there could be room for wage increases in certain sectors and areas, in line with productivity goals to ensure good standards of living, taking into account competitiveness and the need to tackle inequalities;

19.  Points out that fiscal policies need to take into account monetary policy respecting the independence of the ECB;

20.  Urges the Commission to develop a comprehensive strategy to support investment that enhances environmental sustainability, and to ensure a proper link between the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the European Semester;

21.  Welcomes the fact that the AGS 2018 acknowledges the need for efficient and fair tax systems that provide the right incentives for economic activity; supports the Commission’s initiatives to achieve increased transparency and a reformed VAT system, and notes the work that has been done on the common consolidated corporate tax base; welcomes efforts on the international level to fight tax fraud, tax evasion and tax avoidance; notes that improving the effectiveness of national tax systems can increase government revenues significantly;

22.  Calls on the Member States to adopt adequate measures to help and integrate young persons not in education, employment or training (NEETs) and refugees, anticipating at an early stage the requirements for facilitating their smooth transition to the labour market, in order to prevent them from being sucked into the black economy and to ensure that public services are provided with sufficient resources; stresses that the social partners should play a key role in facilitating the integration of NEETs and refugees, and in making sure that they do not suffer labour market discrimination;

23.  Is concerned that gaps and discrimination continue to shape labour markets in some Members States, contributing to differences between men and women in remuneration, retirement and participation in decision making;

Chapter 5 – European Semester framework: ownership and implementation

24.  Welcomes the increased attention given to the euro area’s aggregate fiscal stance, while pointing to the obligations of individual Member States to comply with the Stability and Growth Pact, including full respect of its existing flexibility clauses; emphasises that the concept of an aggregate fiscal stance does not imply that surpluses and deficits in different Member States offset each other;

25.  Is concerned about the low rate of compliance with the CSRs, including those aimed at fostering convergence, increasing competitiveness and reducing macroeconomic imbalances; believes that more national ownership through genuine public debates at national level would lead to better implementation of the CSRs; considers it important to ensure that national parliaments debate country reports and CSRs; believes that regional and local authorities should be better involved in the European Semester process; calls on the Commission to use all existing tools to enforce those CSRs aimed at addressing these challenges, which represent a threat to the sustainability of the monetary union;

26.  Stresses that any further step towards a deepening of the EMU must go hand in hand with stronger democratic controls; insists that, to this end, the role of both the European Parliament and the national parliaments must be strengthened in line with the liability principle; asks that the social partners be consulted in the negotiation process, at both national and European level;

27.  Welcomes the recognition by the Commission that corruption still remains a barrier to investment in some Member States and that respect of the rule of law and independent judiciary and law enforcement authorities are necessary to ensure proper economic development; deplores nonetheless the termination by the Commission of the annual anti-corruption report and calls on the Commission to re-start this annual analysis of corruption within the Member States and provide mechanisms to fight it;

Sectorial contributions to the 2018 AGS Report


28.  Considers that EU budgets must provide an incentive for sustainable growth, convergence, investments and reforms, through solutions and synergies as regards national budgets; believes, therefore, that the AGS serves as a guideline for the Member States, and for the preparation of national and EU budgets, particularly in the context of the preparation of the post-2020 multiannual financial framework;

29.  Reiterates, in this regard, that there should be greater synergies between national budgets and the EU budget; points out that the Commission, given its involvement in the European Semester as well as in the preparation and execution of the EU budget, has a key role to play in this regard;

30.  Welcomes the proposal for greater synergy and non-fragmentation of the EU budget set out in the recommendations presented in ‘Future Financing of the EU’, the final report of the High Level Group on Own Resources from December 2016;

Environment, public health and food safety

31.  Welcomes the initiative shown by the Commission in launching the web portal on health promotion and disease prevention, which provides up-to-date information on topics relating to the promotion of health and well-being, and constitutes an important source of clear and reliable information for citizens; stresses that this portal should be fully accessible to all EU citizens, including those suffering from dyslexia or other such difficulties;

32.  Calls for greater coherence with other EU policies in the field of disaster prevention and preparedness, such as the EU strategy on adaptation to climate change, the European Structural and Investment Funds, the Solidarity Fund, environmental legislation and research and innovation policies;

o   o

33.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission, the governments and national parliaments of the Member States and the European Central Bank.

(1) OJ L 306, 23.11.2011, p. 12.
(2) OJ L 306, 23.11.2011, p. 41.
(3) OJ L 306, 23.11.2011, p. 8.
(4) OJ L 306, 23.11.2011, p. 33.
(5) OJ L 306, 23.11.2011, p. 25.
(6) OJ L 306, 23.11.2011, p. 1.
(7) OJ L 140, 27.5.2013, p. 11.
(8) OJ L 140, 27.5.2013, p. 1.
(9) OJ L 192, 18.7.2015, p. 27.
(10) OJ L 169, 1.7.2015, p. 1.
(11) OJ C 407, 4.11.2016, p. 86.
(12) OJ C 399, 24.11.2017, p. 149.
(13) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0491

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