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Procedure : 2018/2119(INI)
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Document selected : A8-0159/2019

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PV 13/03/2019 - 17
CRE 13/03/2019 - 17

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PV 13/03/2019 - 19.13

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Wednesday, 13 March 2019 - Strasbourg
European Semester for economic policy coordination: Annual Growth Survey 2019

European Parliament resolution of 13 March 2019 on the European Semester for economic policy coordination: Annual Growth Survey 2019 (2018/2119(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), in particular Articles 121(2), 126 and 136 thereof and Protocol No 12,

–  having regard to Protocol No 1 on the role of national parliaments in the European Union,

–  having regard to Protocol No 2 on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality,

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

–  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 Commission communication of 21 November 2018 entitled ‘Annual Growth Survey 2019: For a stronger Europe in the face of global uncertainty’ (COM(2018)0770), and to the Alert Mechanism Report 2019 (COM(2018)0758),

–  having regard to the annual report of the European Fiscal Board of 10 October 2018,

–  having regard to the Commission’s European Economic Forecasts (Autumn 2018 and Winter 2019),

–  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(9),

–  having regard to the 2018 Ageing Report, published by the Commission on 25 May 2018,

–  having regard to the recommendation for a Council recommendation of 21 November 2018 on the economic policy of the euro area (COM(2018)0759),

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 February 2017 on improving the functioning of the European Union building on the potential of the Lisbon Treaty(10),

–  having regard to the Five Presidents’ Report of 22 June 2015 on completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union, to the Commission white paper of 1 March 2017 on the future of Europe, and to the Commission reflection paper of 31 May 2017 on the deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union,

–  having regard to the Eurogroup report to Leaders of 4 December 2018 on deepening the Economic Monetary Union (EMU),

–  having regard to the statement of the Euro Summit of 14 December 2018,

–  having regard to the resolution of the Committee of the Regions of 10 October 2018 on the economic policies for the euro area and in view of the 2019 Annual Growth Survey(11),

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

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, the opinions of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and the Committee on Regional Development, and the position in the form of amendments of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (A8-0159/2019),

A.  whereas Europe’s economy is now entering its seventh year of uninterrupted growth; whereas the euro area and the EU’s GDP growth rates have been adjusted downwards, with respective growth of 1,3 % and 1,5 % in 2019 and 1,6 % and 1,8 % (EU27) in 2020; whereas the growth rate is expected to moderate further, owing in part to growing concerns about the global growth outlook; whereas divergences between Member States in economic and employment performances persist;

B.  whereas unemployment in the euro area and the EU stood at 7,9 % and 6,6 % respectively in December 2018; whereas the unemployment rate in many Member States remains above pre-crisis levels, most notably in the case of long-term unemployment, with youth unemployment remaining high in a number of Member States;

C.  whereas the employment rate in the EU is growing, albeit unevenly across the Member States; whereas the number of people in work has reached the highest level ever recorded in the euro area, having stood at 146 million in the third quarter of 2018; whereas many of the newly created jobs are part time;

D.  whereas economic growth remains vulnerable and varies between Member States amid continued geopolitical tensions, which have an impact on global trade, and persisting uncertainties surrounding the Union’s future relations with the UK;

E.  whereas Europe is still facing an investment gap, even though it has for years benefited from exceptionally low interest rates and that financing conditions remain favourable;

F.  whereas according to Eurostat, the old-age dependency ratio in the EU is predicted to increase, in the absence of policy changes, from 29,3 % in 2016 to 52,3 % by 2080, which amounts to fewer than two working-age people for every elderly person; whereas there are vast differences between the Member States in this regard;

G.  whereas over the past two decades, total factor productivity in the euro area has lagged behind that of major global economies;

H.  whereas euro area debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to continue its declining trend of recent years and fall from around 87 % in 2018 to around 85 % in 2019; whereas, however, according to the Commission forecast, ten Member States are expected to have debt-to-GDP ratios of more than 60 % in 2019 and in seven Member States the ratio will remain above 90 %; whereas debt reduction measures have been slow in some Member States; whereas five euro area Member States with high debt-to-GDP ratios are forecast to have a sizeable structural deficit in 2019;

I.  whereas no euro area Member State is forecast to have a deficit above the 3 % of GDP threshold in 2019 and the aggregate euro area headline deficit is expected to have fallen to 0,6 % of GDP in 2018, rising slightly to 0,8 % of GDP in 2019;

J.  whereas the long-term sustainability of the Member States’ public finances is a matter of concern for intergenerational fairness;

K.  whereas the current account surplus peaked in 2017 and are set to recede somewhat to settle at around 3,6 % of GDP in the euro area and at 2,3 % of GDP in the EU in 2019 and 2020, and are thus among the highest in the world;

1.  Welcomes the Commission’s Annual Growth Survey 2019, which reaffirms the importance of:

   (a) increasing high-quality investments;
   (b) reforms that increase productivity growth, inclusiveness and institutional quality; and
   (c) macro-financial stability and sound public finances;

2.  Urges the EU and its Member States to take decisive and concerted action to deliver on the aim of inclusive and sustainable growth, to take responsibility for future generations, and to ensure intergenerational fairness through the sustainability and adequacy of public finances and our social security systems and, in so doing, to secure the future of our welfare states;

3.  Notes that the Commission’s 2018 Ageing Report shows that without policy changes, fiscal costs linked to pensions, healthcare and long-term care are expected to rise over the coming decades, as Europe’s population continues to age significantly;

4.  Urges the Member States to prepare for these demographic developments by:

   (a) implementing socially-balanced structural reforms to reduce such costs;
   (b) enhancing productivity growth, which is essential for ensuring strong and sustainable economic growth in the future, and
   (c) building the appropriate fiscal buffers to arm against rising fiscal costs;

5.  Welcomes the fact that the employment rate in the EU is growing, albeit unevenly across the Member States; notes that long-term unemployment and youth unemployment remain high in some Member States, necessitating continued reforms and investments to facilitate the entry of young people and the long-term unemployed into the labour market;

6.  Urges the Commission to further promote the deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), in accordance with the agreed roadmap;

7.  Calls on the Commission to put the completion of the single market at the top of its agenda;

Delivering high-quality investment

8.  Emphasises that, in order to ensure intergenerational fairness in the long term, Member States must increase productivity through productive investments, such as in growth-enhancing sustainable infrastructure projects, consistent with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), so as to help stimulate much-needed potential economic growth;

9.  Welcomes the positive contribution of the Investment Plan for Europe for economic growth and job creation; underlines the fact that Parliament has already adopted its negotiating position on the InvestEU programme and urges that an interinstitutional political agreement be reached as soon as possible; notes the European Court of Auditors’ suggestion on improving the geographical spread of investments supported by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI);

10.  Notes that there is still an investment gap in the euro area, despite the positive results of the Investment Plan for Europe; points out that in the current context of signs of economic slowdown and rising external risks and challenges, public and private investment play an important role in facilitating growth and convergence at European level;

11.  Recalls the need for Member States to distinguish between long-term productive public investment and current expenditure when using budgetary space;

12.  Stresses that increasing productivity growth requires investment in skills, innovation, automation, digitalisation, R&D, sustainable mobility and infrastructure, in line with the targets of the Europe 2020 strategy; emphasises the need to invest in both physical and human capital, and thereby calls on the Member States to ensure equal access to lifelong education, upskilling and retraining;

13.  Considers that reforms removing disproportionate red tape to investments would both facilitate economic activity and create conditions conducive to long-term growth;

14.  Stresses that intra-European foreign direct investment can lead to productivity gains for both the investing firm and local firms in the host regions, and helps generate economic convergence within Europe; considers that clear and enforceable rules, a level playing field and reduced compliance costs are crucial factors for attracting investment;

15.  Highlights the urgent need for a fully-fledged capital markets union, as better integrated financial markets could provide for further private risk-sharing and risk-reduction mechanisms, facilitate cross-border investments and access to finance for the real economy, and promote sustainable private investments;

Focusing reform efforts on productivity growth, inclusiveness and institutional quality

16.  Recalls that an ageing workforce may become a drag on European productivity growth over the next few decades, all things being equal; remains concerned about the EU’s low competitiveness and productivity growth and urges the Member States, therefore, to implement productivity-enhancing and socially-balanced structural reforms;

17.  Stresses the urgent need to review both the adequacy and long-term financial sustainability of national public pension schemes; underlines the need to reform the pension systems in the Member States concerned so as to ensure long-term sustainability;

18.  Shares the Commission’s view that higher productivity growth and inclusiveness should be an important objective of national reforms;

19.  Stresses the importance of increasing the labour force participation rate in order, inter alia, to help keep social security systems sustainable, particularly in the context of an increasing dependency ratio; calls on the Member States, therefore, to adopt measures encouraging the labour market integration of young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs) and refugees;

20.  Notes that excessive taxation can be a hindrance to investments and jobs; calls for a tax shift away from the high tax burden on labour in Europe; considers, moreover, that reducing the tax burden for low and middle incomes is likely to increase demand and boost growth; stresses the need to improve tax collection and better coordinate the administrative practices in the field of taxation, and welcomes the efforts of those Member States implementing such reforms;

21.  Emphasises that digitalisation, globalisation, artificial intelligence, automation and technological change offer great growth potential, are radically transforming our labour markets, and are affecting the growth dynamics of European economies;

22.  Highlights the fact that mobilising a diminishing working-age population will require more versatile and skilled employees, more dynamic labour markets, active labour market policies, lifelong learning and training of and upskilling and retraining of the labour force, and stronger links between education and training systems and businesses, combined with accessible social security systems; insists that due account be taken of these principles with a view to supporting inclusive and well-functioning labour markets and promoting job quality, as outlined in the European Pillar of Social Rights;

23.  Highlights the fact that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which are an important driver of employment, are unable to fully harness the potential of the European single market on account of legislative and administrative barriers; urges the Commission to reduce these barriers; urges the Commission, moreover, to tackle unfair competition and taxation among SMEs and multinational corporations; emphasises the importance of continuing the fight against tax fraud, evasion and avoidance;

24.  Recalls the importance of a business-friendly administrative and regulatory environment whilst taking into account sufficient consumer protection, in order to make it easier for companies to access finance and raise funds across borders; welcomes the Annual Growth Survey’s emphasis on the need to improve the effectiveness of public administration, which should involve all levels of government; urges the Member States to remove unnecessary obstacles to private and public investment at local and regional level;

25.  Emphasises that coping with potential future shocks requires progress in deepening the EMU; recalls that deepening the EMU will require strong political commitment, efficient governance and democratic accountability; recalls the importance of a resilient banking sector and its efficient and appropriate regulation to safeguard financial stability; calls for a step-by-step completion of the banking union, with a credible European deposit insurance scheme and continued efforts to reduce non-performing loans; takes note of the mandate given by the Euro Summit to the Eurogroup to work on a budgetary instrument for convergence and competitiveness;

Ensuring macroeconomic stability and sound public finances

26.   Points out that macro-financial stability and sound public finances remain a precondition of sustainable growth;

27.  .Notes that a higher proportion of elderly people entails higher spending on healthcare, old-age care and pensions; further notes that in an ageing society, everything else being equal, the proportion of working-age people is falling in relation to the proportion of elderly people, meaning that there are fewer working-age contributors per elderly person; emphasises that this places a massive burden on the public finances of those Member States which have not implemented the necessary reforms, challenging their sustainability;

28.  Calls for those Member States with high levels of deficits and public debt to undertake continuous efforts to reduce them; acknowledges the efforts made by a number of Member States to consolidate their public finances, but regrets the fact that some have missed the opportunity to carry out the necessary reforms; points out that some Member States with good fiscal space have consolidated even further, thereby contributing to the euro area’s current account surplus;

29.  Welcomes the Commission’s efforts to encourage those Member States with current account deficits or high external debt to improve their competitiveness, and those with large current account surpluses to promote demand by increasing wage growth in line with productivity growth and to foster productivity growth by promoting investment;

30.  Urges the Member States to build the appropriate fiscal buffers for current and future generations; calls for a consistent implementation of and compliance with the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP), including its flexibility clauses, in order to safeguard responsible public finances; recalls the importance of a consistent implementation of fiscal rules for ensuring the trust of financial markets, which is fundamental for attracting investment;

31.  Welcomes the European Fiscal Board’s proposal for a radical simplification of the budgetary rules to further improve the current EU fiscal framework; stresses that flexibility, as built into the rules of the SGP, allows Member States to strike a good balance between the objective of ensuring prudent fiscal policy and facilitating productive investments; calls on the Commission to take all country-specific factors into account for the purposes of its debt sustainability analyses;

National ownership

32.  Recalls that the degree of implementation of the country-specific recommendations is too low; believes that the focus of the European Semester should be on national ownership; urges national and regional parliaments to debate country reports and country-specific recommendations and to engage with the relevant actors; points out that a more streamlined and more focused European Semester could increase ownership;

o   o

33.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(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 129, 19.5.2017, p. 1.
(10) OJ C 252, 18.7.2018, p. 215.
(11) OJ C 461, 21.12.2018, p. 1.

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