Parliament urges commission to focus on internal market ahead of presentation of EU investment plan

Several parliamentary groups have outlined their ideas for boosting job creation and growth in Europe.

By Julie Levy-Abegnoli

25 Nov 2014

While Juncker has not offered up many details regarding his plan to promote growth and job creation in Europe, it is understood that the €300bn he has promised will stem from a public-private partnership over a period of three years. The money would be derived from existing budget resources, the European investment bank and the private sector.

Parliament's EPP group has stood by Juncker's plan, urging the commission to focus on stimulating the internal market. Esther de Lange, a vice-chair of the parliamentary group, said the plan is "the way forward - we should not burden future generations with our debt".

Parliament's S&D group has also offered up ideas to help lift Europe out of the crisis. Group president Gianni Pittella warned that if nothing was done soon, Europe would end up "dead and buried" and that "democratic and social peace" would be destroyed if officials did not come up with a sustainable economic plan.

"We should not burden future generations with our debt" - Esther de Lange

The group has proposed "a plan for €800bn of public and private investment over a period of six years".

Kathleen van Brempt, S&D group vice-president on sustainable development, stressed that "it is crucial to have new investments in Europe but it is equally crucial for us that these investments are put in the right place".

She called for "strong investment in education, research and development and innovation", warning that "it has been calculated that in the next decade we will need up to €2bn to ensure our transport system and our energy system are not only renovated but take responsibility in terms of sustainability and climate change".

The MEP cautioned "investing into climate change is hitting our goals sooner but also avoiding passing the bill to our children and grandchildren".

Maria João Rodrigues, S&D group vice-president on economic, financial and social affairs, said the goal of the proposal was to "ensure real recovery in Europe with real job creation", and that the group wants "to reduce the large internal divergences we now have between member states".

"Investing into climate change is hitting our goals sooner but also avoiding passing the bill to our children and grandchildren" - Kathleen van Brempt

She explained that "we should make the best of the existing means, but the means that are there are not enough to ensure a big push for investment". She called for "more room for manoeuvre in our fiscal rules" and said that while member states would be expected to contribute financially to the €800bn plan, these contributions would "be excluded from the public deficit and debt".

Isabelle Thomas, S&D group vice-president for budget, outlined the group's idea for an "instrument for European investment" worth €500bn.

She explained that total contributions from member states would amount to €100bn, and that this money would be collected "following the same mechanism that led to the creation of the stability pact mechanism".

According to the French deputy, this amount would then be discounted from member states' deficits, and would allow them to obtain a loan for €300bn. The remaining €100bn would stem from private investment.

Commenting on the S&D group's investment plan, ALDE group president Guy Verhofstadt said "the big problem with their proposal is that it establishes a fund that is financed with contributions of the member states", adding that this is "in clear contradiction with the growth and stability pact". His group had previously laid out its own proposal for an investment plan.

He warned "we will not get out of the crisis with only an investment plan".

Instead, the parliamentary group has launched a 'European investment and recovery act', worth €700bn. This amount would be reached through private investment, in order to "close the investment gap […] which is needed to create an interconnected internal market in energy, transport and digital".

"There is a reason why the US pays less than half for their energy consumption and all major internet players are based in the US or Asia" - Guy Verhofstadt

Verhofstadt stressed that this new plan was not meant to undermine the growth and stability pact, as "projects will only be funded by member states that implement structural reforms and whose draft budgetary plans have received a positive opinion by the commission".

The Belgian MEP also explained that if ALDE's plan is implemented, "capital returns from investment in the fund will […] be exempted from taxes".

Verhofstadt sided with the EPP group on the issue of the internal market, calling on the commission to "build an EU energy market and accelerate the digital single market".

The ALDE group president added "there is a reason why the US pays less than half for their energy consumption and all major internet players are based in the US or Asia", explaining that this was due to the fact that in Europe, "companies are facing 28 national markets, 28 national regulators and 28 different registration procedures".

It remains to be seen if Juncker's plan will take parliamentarians' suggestions into consideration.


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