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Between Strasbourg and Athens
European economic-political debate on austerity and growth
The 100 billion euro loan to Spain, legislative elections in Greece (with certain impact on Euroland stability), support to Cyprus banks. But also the “two-pack” budget monitoring and the next European Council meeting set for June 28-29 focused on “growth”. The European Parliament plenary session (June 11-14) addressed various topics, rules and debates centered on the financial crisis that continues to threaten the European “common house”.
Rules and reforms. Speaking in Strasbourg José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, clearly indicated the way to community economic integration, based on rules, reforms and investments. “It is time for stronger medium and long term commitments for an economic and monetary union”, the head of the executive said, mentioning also the need for “quick decisions” by the Member States. “The European Council meeting at the end of June should approve a growth initiative”, necessary to overcome the current crisis. “Structural funds must be remodeled” and “boost investments” through project bond and the European Central Investment Bank, strengthening the single market. Barroso’s speech appeared to be more political than “technical”: “More Integration is needed in budget, banks and especially in policies to safeguard the euro and the Union as a whole”. On the Multiannual financial framework, the EU Budget for 2014-2020, Barroso pointed out: “The EU Budget is not a budget for “Brussels”, it is money for our citizens, a tool to take action in favor of the unemployed, enterprises, farmers, young people, scientists”... Therefore “Countries that want to lower the EU budget are not saving but rather taking money away from growth”.
State decisions. Nobody refrained from speaking about economic issues strictly connected- by now a common opinion- to EU’s political future. Joseph Daul, head of the European People’s Party, was determined to call the governments of the 27 Member States to take common action against the crisis. “The question I pose to all the Member States is the following: Are we capable of politically acting together, or would we rather continue to implement decisions taken by the financial markets?” In view of the Heads of State and government leaders summit, Daul added: “Clearly no State can address by itself the global challenges in the demographic, economic, cultural, and military field. The States must choose to strengthen European political Integration”. With an eye to the Stock Exchange and news coming from Madrid and Athens, MEPs already approved the so called “two-pack” that with the previous “six pack” implements a new tool to monitor public spending, in order to be more open towards growth measures. “I am still convinced we must prepare measures beforehand, even rules to avoid the crisis or contain its effects before it is too late”. Jean-Paul Gauzes said, French MEP, “rapporteur” on one of the proposals. Elisa Ferriera, Portuguese, who drafted the second rule, instead remembered “the negotiation phase is about to begin among the EU institutions” and she hopes a “broader view of the problem will prevail”, including common state budget monitoring and “action focused on growth”.
Vote in Greece. Still in Strasbourg, constant focus on Greece and its vote, on June 17th, that according to the outcome will determine the Country’s future either inside or outside the euro. “I hope the election’s outcome will lead to the creation of a Pro-Europe government, committed to stabilize Greece’s position inside the Eu and euro area”, said British MPE Andrew Duff. The EU Parliament hosted various initiatives in view of the vote. Bas Eickhout, Dutch member of Parliament, added: “Too much is at stake to leave the crisis to skepticism or narrow sighted people. Responsibility, solidarity and mutual understanding are best for Greece and European citizens”. “The great problem my country is undergoing- explained Anni Podimata, Greek, vice president of the European assembly – is the lack of hope. We cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel”. “We are aware of the strong domestic responsibilities that led to this situation”, she admitted. “But we also witness how reluctant Europe is before it intervenes “. The EU “must restore trust towards the European project”, among Greek citizens, without the need to renegotiate the troika memorandum (EU, ECB, IMF) but amending parts of it.