martes, 18 de junio de 2013

Country-specific recommendations: yes to breathing space, no to austerity theory

The extra economic reform "breathing space" granted to enable EU countries to meet deficit-cutting requirements and boost growth was welcomed by MEPs in Monday's joint economic affairs and employment committee debate with Commissioners Olli Rehn and László Andor. MEPs also criticized the analysis and economic theories underlying austerity recommendations.

Annual country-specific reform (CSR) recommendations are proposed by the Commission to each country and adopted by the European Council. They offer advice to guide national structural reform policy.

Extra breathing space

MEPs welcomed the fact that this year's recommendations grant France, Spain and Poland an extra two years, and Belgium, Netherlands and Portugal an extra year, to meet deficit-cutting requirements.

The European Commission's country-specific reform recommendations are much stricter for small member states than big ones and that those receiving aid, like Greece or Portugal, are made to undergo "undemocratic" decision-making, said Anni Podimata (S&D, EL).

Austerity theory

Sven Giegold (Greens/EFA, DE) noted that the CSR recommendations include no overview, with hard figures, on how reform is progressing in the member states. MEPs also complained that the analysis and economic theories upon which the Commission based its prescription of austerity were fragmented or inadequate, and Corien Wortmann-Kool (EPP, NL) suggested that the new "six-pack" and "two-pack" tools should be used to check that reforms are put into practice.

More democracy

"The recommendations will be better implemented and the structural reforms will be accepted more readily by society, if they are decided more democratically, by involving the European and national parliaments", said committee chair Sharon Bowles (ALDE, UK) opening the joint Economic and Monetary Affairs and Employment and Social Affairs committees debate.

This view was shared by Pervenche Berès (S&D, FR), who also worried about the quality of social dialogue. "The CSRs should have been presented to Parliament as soon as they were published on 29 May", she added.

Lending to the real economy

Reform should focus on restoring lending to the real economy and helping SMEs out of the financial trap of costly loans, said Pablo Zalba Bidegain (EPP, ES) Tax reform should restrict short-term speculative capital movements and encourage the long-term investments, added Ms Berès.

lunes, 10 de junio de 2013

The Tories must abandon emotion and embrace rationalism on the EU

Every five years, coinciding with the European elections, the Conservative Party enters its usual crisis of existence regarding the European Union.
Four years ago, a few months before the European elections when the Tories were then in the opposition, they decided to leave the European People's Party (EPP), the largest and most influential group in the European Parliament. Now, they take the debate a step further and propose a referendum on the UK's remaining in the EU in 2015: a labyrinth without an easy way out and unpredictable consequences for the UK and for the EU.

I wonder if Tory leaders have considered the consequences the decision to leave the EPP has had for their party in an increasingly influential European Parliament. There is no doubt that their influence in the EU parliament has fallen. The EPP is one of the most influential grouping in EU politics - now the Tories are bumping along in the fifth rank of influencers.

Yet the Tories are not yet aware of the loss of influence they have suffered in the European Parliament, and hope against hope for primary levels of power at a global level. But a UK outside the EU would lose its traditional relevance. The position isn’t rational - I’m an Anglophile, was educated in the UK: but the Tory obsession with turning the European debate into an emotional discussion rather than a rational one defeats even me.

It is for the Conservatives to decide: do they want Great Britain to be a mouse's head or a lion's tail?