Relaunching the economy

Password and concrete actions

While the political leaders of the 27 member states are preparing for the EU Council dedicated to “economic governance” (Brussels, 28-29 October), the Commission, policy-proposing and executive organ at the Community level, has in recent days launched various projects to reinforce European growth at the level of production, trade and competitiveness. The password seems clear: “relaunching the economy”. And the EU institutions are trying – sometimes with success, sometimes less so – to play their own part. Market, business, work. Apart from placing economic issues at the head of its programme of work for 2011, the Executive has especially devoted its attention this week to support for the industrial sector, the single market, research and development, and transport infrastructures. “The European Union has proved equal to the challenges facing it but we are not yet out of the woods”, said Commission President José Manuel Barroso setting out its strategic priorities for 2011, with a point-by-point analysis of the European economic situation and the process of integration. In his view, the 27 have tackled the challenges of recent times “with resilience, decisiveness and solidarity”. The main commitment for the future, on which the actions of the Executive are also being concentrated, is “to ensure that recovery is sustained”. Five objectives have been written into the Commission’s agenda, and will be pursued, says Barroso, through a series of measures that are spelt out in the same document. Creating jobs. “Sustaining Europe’s social market economy out of the crisis and beyond” is the first strategic priority according to Barroso, who underlines the need for “a legislative framework for bank crisis management, proposals to reinforce the protection of consumers of financial services and a regulation of credit rating agencies”, the whole package aimed at “completing the ambitious reform of our financial sector next year”. The second priority on the Commission’s programme is creating new jobs to compensate for the unemployment caused by the economic crisis that has now lasted for two years. The third priority is reinforcing citizens’ rights, especially in the field of freedom, security and justice. The fourth is the need for Europe to pull its weight on the global stage (Barroso in this case refers in particular to the new European External Action Service) while the final priority is making the most of EU policies and institutions. “Our policies – said Barroso – need to reflect our ongoing commitment to creating sustainable growth and jobs based on the Europe 2020 Strategy, and to concentrate on initiatives where the EU can bring a real value-added”. Spotlight on SMEs. Again on the economic front, the Commission issued, just on the eve of the summit of heads of state and of government, a communication with the title “An integrated industrial policy for the age of globalization”, whose objective “consists in stimulating growth and employment by preserving and promoting a strong, diversified and competitive industrial base”. Looking beyond the sometimes inflated rhetoric contained in the document, we can detect in it a determination to restore growth for jobs especially by assisting small and medium enterprises (SME), which constitute the backbone of the EU manufacturing system. “Europe has a need for industry just as industry has a need for Europe. The protection of the single market, with its 500 million consumers and its 20 million entrepreneurs, must be exploited to the full”, said Antonio Tajani , Commissioner for Industry. “In this age of growing globalization, the concept of national industrial sectors and activities has been superseded. Coordinated responses at the Community level are needed”, “especially on behalf of SMEs”. Innovation and competitiveness. The Commission lists ten actions aimed at the reinforcement and competitiveness of Europe’s manufacturing system. It urges, for instance, the need to modernize “the European infrastructures and services of transport, energy and communications, adapting them to a context characterized by constantly evolving competition”. This is followed by a further industrial priority: “a new strategy relating to raw materials, with the aim of creating suitable conditions for their sustainable provision and management”. The Commission further underlines the challenges “linked to energy-intensive industries”, which must be tackled through interventions “aimed at improving the conditions of context and supporting innovation”. The Commission further intends to adopt “a space policy, to be defined in collaboration with the European Space Agency and member states”. Tajani observes: “Europe is something more that the mere sum of its parts. We must fix more ambitious common objectives in the field of industrial policy, intensify our actions and reinforce European governance”.

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