viernes, 28 de febrero de 2014

Strasbourg round-up: Economic policy coordination


As Europe emerges from financial crisis, economic recovery and growth will be achieved through increased competitiveness and democratic legitimacy, say Philippe de Backer, Pablo Zalba Bidegain and Anni Podimata.

Philippe de Backer is parliament's rapporteur on the economic semester for economic policy coordination: annual growth survey 2014

The financial crisis in Europe was the worst economic crisis since the second world war. Meanwhile, the first signs of an economic recovery are visible, but there is still a lot to be done to overcome the crisis. We need to continue implementing our reform programmes to boost this still very fragile recovery.

We must strengthen our efforts to regain competitiveness and generate growth in order to provide prospects for our future generations. At the same time, we need to better target investments and create more room for private enterprises, notably on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to create sustainable growth. In this respect, the European semester 2014 report of parliament's economic and monetary affairs committee calls on member states to simplify the tax system, to lower and shift taxes away from labour and to modernise the labour and pension markets. Investment at both the EU and national level in education, research and development and infrastructure are necessary to reconnect with growth and job creation.

I am therefore very happy that this report was voted in the plenary session with an overwhelming majority. By doing this, the European parliament gave a very strong message to the member states and European commission: we should not be tempted to build a social paradise on an economic graveyard.

But when implementing the national reform processes, we need to do this with enough democratic accountability. For example we must make sure that all reform programmes that are introduced by the 'troika' are presented and discussed in parliament. Our reform process should be an occasion to strengthen the community method and make the European parliament the centre of European democratic accountability.

Pablo Zalba Bidegain is parliament's EPP group shadow rapporteur for the economic semester for economic policy coordination: annual growth survey 2014.

One year ago we were debating the collapse of the euro, now we are debating growth and jobs. We have come a long way, but there are still many things to be done. We have to move forward into a greater economic integration, but with more democratic legitimacy. The main points that have been defended by the EPP group are competitiveness, whereby reforms are needed in order to promote competitiveness in the EU.

Economic growth must be sustainable and sustained in the long-term in order to ensure a dominant position for the EU in the global market. The role of convergence and competitiveness instruments is crucial for the strengthening of our governance framework, thanks to which we ensure a greater coordination and convergence of the economic performance of the member states in order to correct structural imbalances and divergence.

This convergence has to be an upgrade from the weaker economies to the stronger ones. In tackling unacceptable unemployment rates, especially youth unemployment, it is necessary to enter into force and activate funds designed to create employment in the EU, especially funds like the youth guarantee. The principle of frontloading and immediate distribution should be applied immediately to all funds for 2014-2020 to foster economic growth and job creation. And finally, access to finance and defragmentation are key so that SMEs are made the backbone of the European economy, while it is also essential to establish a Europe-wide level playing field.

Anni Podimata is parliament's S&D group shadow rapporteur for the economic semester for economic policy coordination: annual growth survey 2014

The key priorities for the S&D group in the annual growth survey for 2014, as far as economic policy is concerned, was to give a clear message in favour of a more democratic economic governance and an economic strategy that is really friendly to growth and employment. This was achieved in light of the recognition that economic recovery in Europe is still fragile and that the unacceptable levels of unemployment, as well as the increased disparities within the EU, call for more decisive action in growth, competitiveness and convergence, as well as achieving economic justice through the fight against tax evasion and avoidance.

At the same time, democratic legitimacy is the key to confronting the decreasing confidence in EU decisions and policies and to increase support and ownership by the citizens and the civil society to the economic policy guidelines and priorities.

The European Union has to prove in action that the priorities for 2014, including a growth-friendly fiscal consolidation, the fight against unemployment, the restoration of lending in the economy, the promotion of growth and competitiveness and an improved public administration, are not only words on paper. In order to regain the confidence of EU citizens and the European project we need actions, we need decisions today that have real and tangible results in the short-term and in the long-run.

jueves, 27 de febrero de 2014

MEPs back fair deal between travel retailers, banks and card companies

“Payments Package” approved by powerful Economic and Monetary Committee

Lower rates and a fairer structure between travel retailers and banks and card companies took a major step closer last week when MEPs voted to cap fee levels for both consumer and commercial cards and introduce other measures to help retailers and their customers.

Pablo Zalba’s and Diogo Feio’s reports on the European Commission’s “Payments Package” were voted on by the European Parliament’s powerful Economic and Monetary Committee (ECON) last Thursday.

Despite significant lobbying by the banks and card companies, the result ended up an endorsement of retailers’ position on card fees and structures. It marked a critical step for the European Commission’s “Payments Package” proposals, which aims to drastically improve competition and conditions for retailers and other stakeholders in credit or debit transactions, both in store and on-line.

A key result of the vote would be the capping of credit card transactions at a maximum 0.3%, while debit cards would similarly be capped at a maximum 0.2% or 7 euro cents per transaction, whichever is the lower. In a major victory for the business, these proposals now cover commercial, or corporate cards and would cap fees for card schemes like AMEX and Diners club if their volumes exceed a certain trigger point.

The Parliament now aims to ratify these reports in a vote at a plenary session sometime in April, before the Parliament dissolves for the European elections in May. Once they have been ratified, the process moves to the Council of Ministers to adopt the texts before they become European law.

Once adopted, these new regulated rules are planned to enter into force across all Member States within one year, with a review on the functioning of the new regulations two years later.

This payments package vote came at an important moment in the campaign for fairer fees for retailers and our customers. At the European Court, a full and final court ruling is anticipated shortly following the Advocate-General’s recent initial opinion dismissing MasterCard’s appeal against the Commission’s 2007 Decision prohibiting their Multilateral Interchange Fees.

The Commission has also moved a step forward on its “Cost of Cash Test”, which seeks to identify at which point cash and other means of payment become neutral in terms of costs, with indications that the level is significantly lower than had previously been argued by the banks.

Fair Payment Alliance leader, Jacques Parson, who also chairs the Dutch Retail Federation’s Payments Committee, said: “It has been a busy time for our network and our stakeholder allies, such as EuroCommerce and we are very pleased overall with this vote. It puts us now more firmly in the driving seat than retailers have ever been politically on card fees and the payment structure. However we must take care. This is not the end but a first step, albeit a crucial first step. We have a full plenary vote first and then much work to do with our network and other stakeholders with the Council of Ministers. It is imperative to ensure the clear intentions of this payments package are delivered into European Law for the benefits of travel retailers and our customers.”

miércoles, 26 de febrero de 2014

Working Breakfast on “Modern parcel services for SMEs”

On Tuesday February the 18th 2014 SME Europe of the EPP organized a Working Breakfast on “Modern parcel services for SMEs”
The event was moderated and hosted by Martin KASTLER MEP, rapporteur on Parcel Services and Ecommerce, Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.

The Welcome and opening speech was held by Honorary President of SME Europe Dr. Paul RÜBIG MEP, Member of Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. He welcomed Elisabetta Gardini, MEP, Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, new elected Board member of SME Europe. Stating that cross border Ecommerce increased by 20% in the last year and will quadruple over the next years, he thinks that, cross country parcel service, which is connecting all 28 EU member-states, is one of the pillars of the EU. Taking into account that charges for a parcel crossing a border, which is very often a shorter distance than a delivery within a country, are 3 to 5 times higher than charges for a domestic delivery, e-commerce and cross border parcel service should be one of the top 5 priorities of the EU.

One of the Keynote speeches was held by the Marketing Director of International Post Corporation, Herbert GÖTZ. He started his speech by making us aware that the postal industry is facing a difficult time. There was a 50% drop in letters sent in the last years, which means a continuous drop of 5-10% p.a. Postal service providers try to counter these effect, by reducing cost. This results in job losses all over Europe and is not enough to get through this transition. The real key is to find one of the limited options for growth in the industry. One of them being Ecommerce. B2C (private consumers buying online) has an annual two digit growth rate globally. This new market demands new methods and services from the suppliers. Customers want to check on their parcels online and want to know at any point in time where their package is. To satisfy this demand postal service suppliers have to have a seamless interconnected and consistent data network to track the parcel at certain checkpoints, which they would like to build in the next 18 months. He presents the idea to classify the service into three groups. Firstly “Fully traced and day certain”, for the most expensive parcels, secondly “fully traced” for medium and thirdly “easy and uncertain” for the parcels with the cheapest content. The reason for the classification is that the complete service would be too expensive for small parcels with little to no value. The delivery of parcels plays an important role, because people, who had a bad experience with delivery are less likely to order online again, thus decreasing consumption.

The second Keynote speech was presented by the Head of Unit for On-line and postal services from the European Commission, Werner STENGG. He stressed the progress since two years ago, when Ecommerce was a much less debated topic. It is important to support Ecommerce since consumers will buy more, suppliers will sell more and postal service suppliers will deliver more, hence supporting the economy. It is however more difficult in some regions e.g. the countryside and less developed parts of the EU, where postal service is less developed, hence attracting less customers, therefore giving the suppliers little incentive to grow their network. This creates a vicious circle, which is hard to escape. A well-developed cross border postal service gives SME more opportunities to grow, to reduce cost due to bigger scale operations and to be more competitive on the global market. The commission has set objectives for the future. They set transparency a priority. The consumer should have delivery related information e.g. how many orders were aborted due to delivery and who the competitors are. Another objective is to ensure quality and availability of services e.g. being able to track and trace. They try to implement a service where customers are able to choose the mode of delivery “you should not be running after your parcel, but the parcel should run after you”.

The Keynotes were followed by impulse statements from Pablo ZALBA BIDEGAIN, MEP, member of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, EP, and Salvador SEDÓ i ALABART, MEP, member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, EP, both vice-president of SME Europe.

MEP ZALBA mentioned in his impulse statement that internet does not have any borders and so the delivery of goods bought via E-Commerce should not be hindered by borders. He underlined the core importance of SMEs to boost innovation and growth, therefore putting SMEs in the center of political work of the European parliament. Although the interests of consumers will be on top of agenda “guaranteeing legal certainty for citizens.”

MEP SEDÓ i ALABART added the immanent lack of delivery options in e-commerce and the high percentage of transactions not being made due to uncertainties or too high price of shipping. He warned that `real´ and `online´ retail should be harmonized, offering the biggest possible advantage to customers and SMEs.

Pagamenti: commissioni interbancarie, primo sì Pe

Con poche, ma rilevanti modifiche rispetto alla proposta originaria della Commissione europea, il regolamento che introduce un tetto alle commissioni interbancarie multilaterali sulle transazioni tramite carte di pagamento ha incassato il primo sì del Parlamento europeo.
Nonostante il semaforo verde della commissione Affari economici e monetari del 20 febbraio, non è scontato che il testo arrivi in plenaria e sia approvato entro questa legislatura. Secondo la tabella di marcia del Parlamento, il voto finale dovrebbe tenersi il 2 aprile. Tuttavia non è detto che su questo tema si "trovi la quadra" con il Consiglio.

Come ha rivelato il relatore del testo, l'eurodeputato Pablo Zalba Bidegain (PPE) in un'intervista a subito dopo il voto: "Stiamo facendo il possibile per arrivare a un accordo, ma sarà molto difficile che il cosiddetto 'Trilogue agreement' con il Consiglio dell'Unione europea possa essere raggiunto entro il mese di aprile. Il dibattito, pertanto, potrebbe slittare e riprendere proprio in concomitanza con il semestre di presidenza Italiana".

Per Zalba gli emendamenti al testo iniziali hanno migliorato la proposta "rendendola più vicina alle esigenze dei consumatori".

Per quanto riguarda le carte di debito, il tetto è fissato allo 0,2% del valore della transazione o a 7 centesimi a transazione, mentre per quelle di credito si attesta a 0,3%. Agli stati membri è lasciata la possibiità di stabilire tetti inferiori.

Rispetto al testo originario, cambia la tempistica: i plafond entreranno in vigore sia a livello transnazionale che nazionale in tutta l'Ue un anno dopo l'approvazione della norma.

"Così l'eurodeputato di nazionalità croata Marino Baldini, raggiunto da per commentare a caldo il voto: "Tutti noi, membri della commissione ECON, abbiamo investito molto in questo testo. L'obiettivo del nuovo regolamento è garantire per tutti un mercato unico integrato per i pagamenti elettronici. Ho voluto sottolineare che un sistema di pagamento funzionale è essenziale per creare un mercato unico efficiente e trasparente. Nonostante la tendenza generalizzata all'aumento nel ricorso alle carte di pagamento, il mercato unico è ancora frammentato e i comportamenti a livello nazionale sono diversi a seconda del paese. Questo determina una significativa asimmetria nell'uso delle carte di pagamento tra gli stati membri. Speriamo di aver fatto un buon lavoro, intervenendo su questo punto".

Per quanto riguarda i deputati italiani della Commissione ECON, Claudio Morganti non era presente, mentre Leonardo Domenici non ha rilasciato dichiarazioni in merito.



"Il voto odierno rappresenta un passo importante nel processo legislativo. MasterCard accoglie l'intenzione della Commissione Affari economici e monetari di riservare pari trattamento a tutti gli attori, senza che vi siano vincitori e perdenti.

La definizione di una soglia per tutti gli attori del mercato, indipendentemente dal loro modello di business, va nella giusta direzione. Mastercard apprezzerebbe ulteriori discussioni sui criteri di definizione di tale soglia, affinchè tutti gli attori, inclusi quelli che si avvalgono del cosiddetto "schema di business a tre parti",  come Amex e Paypal, possano basarsi sulle stesse regole (n.d.r. MasterCard, invece, fonda il suo modello sullo schema "a quattro parti").

Allo stesso tempo, ci preoccupa la decisione odierna di mantenere l'approccio “one-size-fits-all” sostenuto della Commissione. La definizione di un tetto stringente sulle commissioni interbancarie non si basa su dati chiari, non tiene conto delle diverse realtà dei mercati nazionali e rischia di spostare i costi sui consumatori e i piccoli commercianti. L'esperienza di alcuni paesi, come la Spagna, ha dimostrato che il rischio è reale".