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Agreements and disagreements
Debates and few decisions by the European Council of 23 May
“Austerity and growth are two sides of the same coin” and cannot be the opposite of each. Concluding, late during the night, the European Council informal meeting on May 23, President Herman Van Rompuy wanted to reply to some recent critics. After he clearly summed up the meeting’s outcome. No final and meaningful decisions or novelties emerged from the meeting of the 27 Member States: for which a European Council meeting was scheduled for June 28 and 29. However, as expected, the meeting enabled a broad discussion on the most important issues of this European political and economic phase, showing new agreements and pinpointing other divisions.
Favor growth. Therefore, first of all growth. Van Rompuy highlighted the need for three pillars to support growth. First, the need to mobilize EU policies, ranging from single market acts to energy, from digital agenda to trade agreements. Second: the need to step up efforts to finance the economy through investments, increase its capital by the European Investment Bank , project bonds (the pilot phase scheduled for July) , investments (national and international, through structural funds), better access of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises to credit. Thirdly, the need to strengthen job-creation: part of the meeting was centered on this topic starting from the work carried out in the past months by the Commission together with the Member States, stressing the urgency for reforms, training and support to job demand.
Economic Union. Another important part of the informal meeting’s discussion (which lasted just a couple of hours, way too little considering the items on the agenda) has been to strengthen both the economic and monetary union. Van Rompuy stressed on the need for more governance and more European decisions because the crisis involves all of Europe and must be solved together. Talks also about “eurobond” and the monetary “debt mutualization”. Countries must monitor national accounts, without mortifying possible recovery. Eurobonds, however, for the time being are just on paper: various leaders talked about the issue, Van Rompuy confirmed that “nobody asked for euro bonds to be immediately adopted. It will take more time ”.
Athens stays in Euroland. Last but not least the chapter on Greece. The 27 Member States issued a written statement. “ We want Greece to remain in the euro area while respecting its commitments. We are fully aware of the significant efforts already made by the Greek citizens. “ The eurozone has shown considerable solidarity, having already disbursed together with the IMF nearly 150 billion euros to support of Greece since 2010. The EU will ensure mobilization of European structural funds and instruments to bring Greece on a path towards growth and job creation”. A final “warning”: “Continuing the vital reforms to restore debt sustainability, foster private investments and reinforce its institutions is the best guarantee for a more prosperous future in the euro area. We expect that after the elections, the new Greek Government will make that choice”.
Main actors. In trying to evaluate the May 23 Summit one mustn’t neglect the attitude of some of the leaders in Brussels. The newly elected President François Hollande was the most photographed (and most sought-after by colleagues for bilateral meetings). He walked on the stage keeping his anti-Merkel role portrayed by journalists. “Euro bonds are part of the discussion underway”, he said, at his arrival, to Justus Lipsius. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel replied straightaway: “Euro bonds are non a solution to the crisis”. A remote iron-fist; no wonder the traditional bilateral Berlin-Paris meeting which characterized the previous summits of the Sarkozy-Merkel couple did not take place. Commission President José Manuel Barroso preferred to focus “on the problem of unemployment among youngsters and concrete answers”, and the green light to project bond (“we are drafting pilot projects)”. More in the back light, as “guest”, President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz. He pointed out how the assembly on the same day of the summit gave a strong transversal support on financial transaction taxes and stressed that “Greek’s exit is not viable, it is against the treaties and is not a credible solution” to Athens’ problems.