GUE/NGL hearing with Juncker
(AE) COMMISSION: Juncker wants to democratise troika but GUE not convinced
The GUE/NGL (United European Left/ Nordic Green Left) at the Parliament will not support the candidacy of Jean-Claude Junker for the presidency of the European Commission. Juncker set out his priorities to this group on Wednesday 9 July in Brussels. This iconic Eurogroup figure was unable to convince the group, particularly because of his record at the presidency of this body over the 2005-2013 period.
Junker was keen to point out that he was “allergic to deficits and public debt” and emphasised that he would seek to democratise the European troika. He also argued in favour of a minimum wage in all EU countries and defended labour law, which must be the safety net for the labour market. He said that more attention should be paid to the “dangerous combination of fiscal and social dumping”. The 52 members of the group remained defiant during the exchange of views chaired by Gabi Zimmer from Germany. At 2.30pm, the barbed questions and answers demonstrated to the MEPs that Jean-Claude Junker was the very embodiment of an ultra-liberal capitalist Europe, which bails out the banks, destroys jobs and the well-being of the peoples of Spain, Greece and Portugal. The candidate-elect for the presidency of the Commission deemed this vehement criticism excessive and said that blanket responses were no solution and that “the situation in these countries was not shaped by Europe”.
According to Zimmer, “Juncker's priorities do not match our vision for the EU's future. While he seemed to criticise some of the stifling policies pursued by EU leaders – such as the undemocratic nature of troika – in recent years, he was not willing to abandon it and shied away from proposing a real departure from these failures. This is simply not good enough when ending austerity with its devastating impact on millions of citizens is clearly the key challenge of our times”. The responses sought on the TTIP trade agreement currently being negotiated with the US were also judged to be disappointing.
In his introductory speech, Junker defended his record and stated that, “as president of the Eurogroup, I did everything to prevent the exclusion of Greece… We did not exactly have the ideal instruments. In an emergency situation we had to repair the aeroplane while still flying… I was not in favour of IMF involvement in the safeguard mechanism but it was explained to me that the IMF had the expertise. I have always criticised the fact that the IMF applied a one size fits all treatment. The troika is an insufficiently democratic body. I want it to be given a dose of democratic legitimacy. The problem is that public and private investment has experienced a regrettable reduction. Together with the EIB, I am examining the possibilities for adding some drive to Europe's determination to relaunch investment. I want more progress in the area of tax harmonisation”. He also said that he wanted to improve transparency and provide a working framework for the stability and growth pact, without amending it, as decided at the European Council.
When asked to explain what could replace the troika, he said that he did not know exactly but that a fairer democratic instrument would be required.
TTIP. When asked about the way in which citizens should be consulted, either via the European Parliament or national parliaments, Junker did not provide any answer but simply said that, in the negotiations for the transatlantic free-trade agreement, the EU should not “compromise on rules on hygiene, labour law and data protection”.
Migration. In response to those who asked how border controls could be reconciled with a more humane asylum policy, Junker said that he wanted to “Europeanise asylum law, step up border controls, organise solidarity between Northern and Southern Europe on asylum”. He also said that it is scandalous that “the majority of member states are revising downwards their levels of public development aid”. (AN)