European semester 'a pretext to further entrench neoliberalism'

Following a debate at plenary in Strasbourg on the European semester, MEPs have backed the European commission's plan for coordination of economic policies to stimulate jobs and growth.

By James O'Brien

12 Mar 2015

The debate took place in the presence of commission vice-president for the euro and social dialogue Valdis Dombrovskis, commissioner for employment, social affairs, skills and labour mobility Marianne Thyssen, and commissioner for internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs Elżbieta Bieńkowska.

The European semester is the EU's annual cycle of economic policy guidance and surveillance. The commission analyses the fiscal and structural reforms of member states, makes recommendations, and monitors their implementation.

"The European semester is the worst negative example of integration at EU level and the commission takes ever more power from member states" - Marisa Matias, GUE/NGL

The commission's economic proposals were examined from three perspectives: the annual growth survey 2015, single market governance, and social affairs and employment. Three separate resolutions from three parliamentary committees came before MEPs, all of which were approved.

Despite the large vote in favour of each report, concerns were raised across the political divide.

Parliament's EPP group warned of the need for member states to take the European semester more seriously.

Dariusz Rosati, rapporteur on parliament's report on the European semester for economic policy coordination: annual growth survey 2015 said, "The low implementation rate is appalling. Whether they are big or small, all member states should respect the stability and growth pact."

He added, "Reforms and fiscal consolidation are the right way to reduce unemployment and poverty in the countries most affected by the financial crisis and to help the euro area to return to sustainable growth.

GUE/NGL group shadow rapporteur on the report Miguel Viegas said the report "does not differ from previous years as it continues to defend austerity and structural reforms, particularly in terms of the labour market and the privatisation of welfare services and public companies".

The GUE/NGL deputy believes this is "totally unacceptable" because it "does nothing to question the current mainstream approach to economic policymaking".

Outlining the GUE/NGL group's reasons for voting against the "flawed report", Viegas' colleague Marisa Matias accused the European commission of a power grab.

The Portuguese MEP said, "The European semester is the worst negative example of integration at EU level and the commission takes ever more power from member states by issuing them with recommendations on structural reforms." 

Matias highlighted the "particularly problematic" absence of social indicators on which the recommendations are based and also criticised the ability of the commission to impose sanctions on states found not to be in compliance with reform recommendations.

In a statement, GUE/NGL called the semester process "nothing more than a pretext to further entrench neoliberalism".


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