Values and responses

Towards a political as well as an economic Europe

“We are going beyond the economic Europe by building a political Europe”, says Antonio Tajani, who is Vice-President of the EU Commission and has held the portfolio for industry and entrepreneurship since February 2010. In the two previous years he had served as Commissioner for transport in the first Barroso Executive. His curriculum vitae also includes a long spell at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, to which he was elected three consecutive times since 1994. Now, in Brussels, he is closely monitoring the developments and effects of the recession. These are critical days also as a result of the Greek financial situation. But the Italian Commissioner has found the time for an interview with SIR Europe beginning with the forthcoming celebrations to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the process of European integration. The Schuman Declaration of 9 May 1950 laid the foundations for the construction of the “common home”: an integrated Europe. A year later the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was founded; that was followed by the European Economic Community (EEC) and then by the EU, which now represents an original experience of cooperation between peoples and states. Do you think this model is still valid?“The Declaration of the then French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman presupposed a community founded on great shared values and ideals: I hope first of all that we haven’t lost this legacy somewhere along the road, because I consider it essential for the construction of a political Europe, which is far more than an economic market. On the other hand, the EU needs to reinforce its presence on the international scene. So here are the two urgent tasks by which we are faced: we must first of all overcome the crisis and for this to happen what’s needed, apart from the euro, is a coordination of economic policies. And we are working on that… In the second place, we must find the means for an effective common foreign policy, in order to be credible interlocutors of big countries like the USA, China and India. In tackling the new challenges we must trust in our historic values, adapting to them the operational responses we make”. The Community derived its origin primarily from economic and only secondarily from political circumstances. Today what is the level of economic integration achieved? What does the case of Greece tell us?“We have achieved a high level of integration, that’s beyond dispute. But it still needs to be constructed, step by step, reinforcing governance, giving ourselves rules that we then respect, and rejecting protectionism and the various forms of nationalism. Crises like that of Greece can be repeated; that’s why we need to take steps to prevent them, together”.But would you be favourable to a reform of the Stability and Growth Pact which regulates the Eurozone?“The rules contained in the Pact must be respected and I don’t think that now is the time to change them. Solidity needs to be restored to the public accounts, so as to be able to reduce the fiscal pressure and free up energies for investments in support of the real economy. For this reason, too, we are formulating the strategy Europe 2020, which is aimed at promoting development and employment”. Industry and entrepreneurship are your “fields of action” within the Commission. On this front how is the Union proceeding?“Industry can only grow today with the help of innovation: it’s there we must allocate new resources. The time for state-aided industry has passed. Now we must concern ourselves, instead, with competition and access to credit for small and medium businesses. The problems of concern to me include relocation and, obviously, employment”.The ECSC and the EEC, down to the current EU, can be considered progeny of the Schuman Declaration. Now, 60 years later, what do you see in the future of the European Union?“I think we shouldn’t play a defensive game. In the sense that in the future I see premier league teams on the world scene: Washington, Beijing, New Delhi… In Europe we are perforce called to proceed with a greater degree of integration. The single market must be enlarged; shortly we shall open our doors to Croatia. Then, with all necessary caution, we must come to terms with the membership bids of Turkey, the Balkans, and Iceland. And we must devote renewed attention to the Mediterranean”. Recovery, employment, “Europe 2020”To overcome the crisis what’s needed is strong and efficient European economic governance” and, at the same time, “the revival of the single market and the reinforcement of the eurozone”: Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the Commission, underlined the point anew on inaugurating the second “Conference on Industrial Competitiveness” in Brussels on 26 April. In his analysis, Tajani maintained: “We could not have avoided a phase of deep recession, but we have averted the risk of a crisis of long duration. We have had to tackle the worst recession in the post-war period and only now are the first signs of recovery beginning to emerge”. For this year the Commissioner forecasts “a growth without the creation of new jobs”, but the strategy undertaken is, in his view, “the right one”: the EU to this end has proposed “Europe 2020” for an “intelligent sustainable and inclusive” growth.

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