October European Council
Europe after the crisis: MEPs debate the direction for the EU to take
6 November 2013
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As Europe slowly emerges from the economic crisis, what measures are needed to boost growth and keep Europe on the right track? MEPs debated the issue during a Conference of Presidents meeting on 5 November on the outcome of the Council summit in October, dedicated to economic coordination, data protection, immigration and the digital economy.
Council president Herman Van Rompuy highlighted the challenges that remained: We have left the existential crisis of the euro behind us and that means we can now devote all our energy to the wider economic challenges of consolidation, the short term recovery and strengthening our policies and tools for the future.
Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic, commissioner for inter-institutional relations, said boosting the digital single market by 2015 was a priority: To compete globally we need to boost public and private investment on innovation in the ICT sector. He also said that youth employment and the youth guarantee were very important for the Commission.
Corien Wortmann-Kool, a Dutch member of the EPP group, said: We need jobs instead of debt for our citizens. We need structural reforms to enhance competitiveness and economic growth, not tax increases, but structural reforms because only then can our SMEs flourish and provide jobs.
Enrique Guerrero Salom, a Spanish member of the S&D group, added: “The EU is not in the same situation it was some years ago. It is not in intensive care anymore, but it is still sick. If we do not take the right measures the sickness will become chronic. In that sense the European Commission, the Council and some member states became too complacent.”
Migration was discussed by Antonyia Parvanova, a Bulgarian member of the ALDE group, who said that the EU was still not ready for further migration flows: “There must be a follow-up with concrete action and a coherent migration policy.”
The summit was called a disappointment by Rebecca Harms, a German member of the Green group. Referring to Lampedusa, she said change was needed: “You were not even able to make one single correction to a common refugee policy.”
Geoffrey Van Orden, a British member of the ECR group, welcomed Council discussions on deregulation: The best way of cutting unhelpful regulation would be to reduce the number of European directorates and bureaucrats. Fewer officials and fewer pet projects means less red tape, more competitiveness and a reduced EU budget a triple benefit.
Gabriele Zimmer, a German member of the GUE/NGL group, said very little progress had been made at the summit: “There has been a failure to take decisions on the most pressing issues that required to be resolved. There is a crying lack of action. Little has been done to rectify the errors of the past.”
(AE) EUROPEAN COUNCIL: Parliament's verdict: could do better
Brussels, 05/11/2013 (Agence Europe) -The European Parliament was fairly critical overall of the results of the European Council of 24 and 25 October. The presidents of the political groups voiced their opinions of the conclusions of the Council on 5 November, at a session attended by the commissioner for inter-institutional relations, Maros Sefcovic, and the president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy. Overall, they are dissatisfied with the results achieved, although the different political allegiances emphasised different points. The EPP was concerned about the budget, the S&D was worried by sluggish employment, the ADLE at the lack of progress on banking and monetary union and the Greens on the lack of resolution towards the Americans. The ECR wants a tougher migration policy and the GUE was completely disenchanted on all subjects. As for Nigel Farage of the EFD, he once again had a bone to pick with Herman Van Rompuy, whose legitimacy he still challenges.
Presenting the results of the Council, Van Rompuy welcomed the support of the heads of state and government for the youth employment initiative by means of national youth guarantees which will make it possible to go further. The Council has earmarked additional support from the structural and investment funds to SMEs. As regards banking union, the Council reiterated its intention of reinforcing the mechanisms set in place and of concluding the legislative process for the single resolution mechanism in time. The Council has also considered the resources to be used to build upon the EMU, from the point of view of social perspectives. As regards the digital economy, the single digital market must be completed by 2015, as this is vital for economic recovery. The terrible events at Lampedusa have caused the member states to acknowledge the need for a strong reaction. Future actions must respond to three principles: prevention, protection and solidarity, with improved collaboration with the countries of origin. The fight against the trafficking in human beings must be stepped up, the Eurosur surveillance system must be put in place quickly and Frontex must be reinforced in the Mediterranean on the south-eastern borders. As regards telephone tapping, the Council expressed great concern at this. The heads of state and government took note of the intention of France and Germany to open bilateral talks with the United States to find common ground over how intelligence services should work. As regards the Eastern partnership, the Council hopes to be able to step up its relations with Ukraine if European demands are met.
The EPP also stressed the absolute need to complete banking union, on pain of seeing the financial system of the EU undermined. We need a single supervision mechanism before the end of the legislative period, stressed Corien Wortmann-Kool (Netherlands). The EU must remain ambitious as regards economic recovery and he calls on the ministers concerned to continue their efforts at the forthcoming Ecofin Council. The EPP also welcomes efforts to cut red tape and support SMEs. On the other hand, it expresses concern at the European budget, which is being cut whilst planned European actions are on the increase. The same observation was made regarding the boost to youth employment: how will the actions be paid for? “Our group is calling for a strong Europe”, the MEP concluded. Speaking on behalf of the S&D Group, Enrique Guerrero Salom (Spain) said that he was not disappointed with the Council as his group had no positive expectations. Europe is no longer in intensive care, but it is still ill and its illness could become chronic, he warned. Unemployment rates remain high and poverty is on the increase. While the single supervision method is a step forward, the questions outstanding still have to be resolved and there is still no response to the urgent problems. As regards surveillance, the EU is standing firm but, at the same time, has postponed the data protection directive until 2015, Guerrero lamented. On behalf of the ADLE, Antonyia Parvanova (Bulgaria) regrets the time spent on the tapping of Angela Merkel's telephone to the detriment of important issues, whilst many dossiers remain at stalemate at the Council level. The ADLE supports efforts to complete the single digital market, which is vital for growth and employment, and also the Youth Guarantee, even though it is concerned that this remains an “empty shell”. On banking union, the Council should speed up its actions, because “if it continues in the same vein, there will soon be no member states left in the G8”. In the view of the Greens/EFA, the Council was “disappointing”. It proved incapable of turning out a single resolution on asylum or immigration, said Rebecca Harms (Germany). She also lamented the fact that the Council's reaction to the American spying scandal was not more unequivocal. On behalf of the ECR, Geoffrey Van Orden (United Kingdom) stressed the role of Frontex in immigration matters and called for greater firmness and reinforced controls on the borders with North Africa. Lastly, Gabriele Zimmer (Germany), speaking on behalf of the GUE, was entirely disenchanted: “It was a Council of missed opportunities”. All surveys indicate that European citizens are becoming disenchanted with Europe and the Council is not mobilising the electorate, she lamented. As regards immigration, the Council showed “disunity and non-solidarity” and, as regards banking union, there is nothing in place in the event of a further crisis. Youth unemployment is still just as high and, although there are praiseworthy intentions for the single digital market, its infrastructures have not been given adequate funding. (IL/transl.fl)