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.
"We must strengthen our efforts to regain competitiveness and generate growth in order to provide prospects for our future generations"
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.
"The principle of frontloading and immediate distribution should be applied immediately to all funds for 2014-2020 to foster economic growth and job creation"
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.
"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"
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.
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