On January 29, the European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EP EMPL) met for an exchange of views without document in relation to the file “European Fund for Strategic Investments”. Please find a summary of the debate below. Note that this does not constitute a formal record of the proceedings of the meeting. It is dependent on interpretation and acts as an unofficial summary of the debate.
Committee chair Marita Ulvskog (S&D, SE) issued the opening words to the debate, saying that several meetings of the European Parliamentary Conference of Committee Chairs on the division of competences on the European Commission’s proposal among the different European parliamentary committees have already taken place. She continued to say that she pushed for the Committee of Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL Committee) to have a central role in addressing the file because, in her view, the proposed European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) is, even though this is not mentioned systematically in the proposal, above all not about investments “for the sake of financial markets” but about creating much needed jobs and bringing down the staggering unemployment rates across the EU. She added that a final decision on the division of competences has yet to be made but that it seems likely for now that the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON Committee) will be leading on the file but that other committees will be centrally involved in giving input through a special steering committee. She also announced that an own-initiative opinion will accompany the European Parliament’s position on the proposal in order to maximise the possibilities to give input towards the other EU institutions and the Council of Ministers in particular and that MEP Monika Vana (Greens/EFA, AT) will be the draftsperson for the EMPL Committee. She concluded by saying that she will inform the committee on any final procedure-related decisions made on the file.
Danuta Jazłowiecka (EPP, PL) said that the EFSI will hopefully “be an engine to kick-start the economy” again and that she hopes that the fund will be operational already by the middle of this year.
She generally welcomed the European Commission’s proposal, adding that it will be important that funds will be “well-spent” in sectors and on projects that target the real economy.
She noted, however, that it must be ensured that support will also be given to cross-border projects and networks that can generate additional growth and that the EFSI’s Steering Board – the body that determines the strategic orientation of the fund – must not be politicised but take decision based clear economic criteria (such as the profitability of investments in potential projects to be pursued). She also expressed doubts whether there are really sufficient “dormant funds” for investment in the EU (which the EFSI tries to stimulate) and also questioned the ability of SMEs to carry out the large-scale projects that the EFSI aims to inspire.
Maria João Rodrigues (S&D, ES) noted that job creation must be the underlying raison d’être of the EFSI and that therefore the EMPL Committee should naturally be centrally involved in drawing up a European Parliamentary position on it.
She underscored the importance of ensuring that the EFSI will pursue projects that have job creation as the central goal and not just economic profitability. In this context, she said that the “experts” that decide on investment projects to be supported should not be experts only in economic profitability but experts the creation of good jobs, too.
She also called for all Member States to be adequately represented in the governance of the EFSI, regardless of their demographic size or economic capacity.
She concluded by saying that means must be found for Member States struggling to comply with the budgetary deficit criteria of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) to co-finance projects without being punished for this through the annual fiscal assessment of them by the EU.
Enrique Calvet Chambon (ALDE, ES) said that what matters now is to practically implement and make operational the EFSI as soon as possible and to stay away from any “doctrine-based” discussions.
Rina Ronja Kari (GUE/NGL, DK) also stressed that the EMPL Committee must play a key role in shaping the EFSI.
She then raised concerns of the composition of the EFSI’s steering group, calling for social partners to be able to get involved, too. She also noted that all Member States (and not just the big and economically wealthy ones) must be able to be represented fairly in matters of EFSI.
She concluded by urging that measures be taken to ensure that the EFSI-pursed projects will not only create large quantities of jobs but decent ones, too.
Monika Vana (Greens/EFA, AT) agreed that the EMPL Committee must play a substantial role in setting up the EFSI and that EFSI-related projects must focus on the creation quality jobs. She urged to consider that the EFSI must help the least well-off and not only be a package for the benefit of investors and that it must focus on projects in sectors that are employment-friendly.
Laura Agea (EFDD, IT) criticised that the resources of the EFSI have been to a large extent diverted from EU budgetary resources that had previously already been earmarked for the EU’s research programme Horizon 2020. She also questioned whether the plan can in practice really be operational and take effect even before 2016 and if whether the EFSI’s scheme to drive private investments will actually work out. She also mentioned that some regions may in the end be favoured over others because there is “no regional discretion” available in the EFSI. Finally, she noted that an Italian contribution in the EFSI context could in the end fund Irish infrastructure and suggested that it may be more practical to invest directly via national budgets.
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