European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs
Going the last centimeter for reinforced economic governance
Joint Debate on Economic Governance in the European Parliament
Brussels, 22 June 2011
President, Honourable Members,
First, let me thank the ECON Chair Sharon Bowles, Rapporteurs Corien Wortmann-Kool, Elisa Ferreira, Vicky Ford, Sylvie Goulard, Diogo Feio, Carl Haglund, as well as the shadow Rapporteurs who played a major part in the negotiations. The Chair, the Rapporteurs and the shadow Rapporteurs have all represented this House with real distinction.
I also highly appreciate the outstanding role played by Andras Karman, who represented the Presidency with such skill and determination.
I warmly welcome the texts that you have finalised. In the course of the trilogues, Parliament's negotiators have improved the Commission's proposals in many important respects. And you have gained a good many important improvements from the Council.
The Commission supports the texts which you are about to vote on, and we can welcome and agree on all of your amendments.
As we know, the Council agrees with almost all of them. But it did so with a couple of exceptions. That presents quite a challenge – let me come back to that in a second.
There is no time now to set out all of the gains made by Parliament in these negotiations: my staff have made me a summary list of no less than 50 major improvements won by you.
For instance, you have codified the European Semester, providing for comprehensive assessment of Member States' progress on Europe 2020, our strategy for growth and jobs.
You have set up a structured economic dialogue, providing for a prominent role of Parliament throughout the European Semester. You have achieved the opportunity for detailed discussion of country-specific situations at every key decision-making stage of the policy cycle, including confirmation of the Parliament’s right to initiate dialogue with individual Member States. In all parts of the legislation you have won better information flow to the Parliament, and more transparency.
You have got a commitment from the Commission to do a study on Eurosecurities within six months of the entry into force of the legislation. This will be accompanied by a Commission declaration, the text of which you have seen, setting out the scope for that report. The Commission will also commit itself in this declaration to review the intergovernmental nature of the European Stabilisation Mechanism by mid-2014.
You have got reverse QMV in a number of important cases to improve the automaticity of decision-making, as the rule in the corrective arm (where 24 Member States out of 27 now are!). You have won an equal role for Parliament in determining the scoreboard for detecting possible macroeconomic imbalances. You have inserted firm guarantees on social dialogue, respect for national traditions on collective agreements, wage formation, and the role of social partners.
There are tough fines for statistical fraud, and guarantees of independence for national statistical authorities. You have introduced earlier sanctions in the EIP. And I could go on and on.
In your first legislative encounter with ECOFIN as a co-legislator in economic policy, you achieved almost all of your most important objectives. This is a very good result for the Parliament and for Europe.
I will only reconfirm what I said at the trilogue on 15 June:
The Commission intends to present a report to the European Parliament and the Council on the setting up of a system of common issuance of European sovereign bonds (eurosecurities) under joint and several liability, in line with Article 8a(5) of the Regulation on the enforcement of budgetary surveillance in the euro area and within 6 months of the entry into force of that Regulation. These eurosecurities would aim to strengthen fiscal discipline and increase stability in the euro area through markets, as well as, by taking advantage of the increase in liquidity, ensuring that the Member States enjoying the highest credit standards would not suffer from higher interest rates. The report will, if appropriate, be accompanied by legislative proposals.
President, Honourable Members,
Let me say a word on the next steps. I am worried. If the package will not get agreed, neither the Council nor the Parliament should think that they can successfully shift the responsibility on the other. That won't work. People who are watching from outside aren't interested in the smallest detail. If we fail – and I say we and really mean us all – they will simply say that "Europe" has failed. And people's trust in the capacity of Europe to address their real problems would suffer a huge blow.
Moreover, neither institution should even for one moment imagine that – whether for tactical or substantive reasons – they might get a better deal in a second reading. The Presidency has skilfully extracted compromises from the Council that would most likely not appear on the table again, if a first reading agreement isn't reached.
Actually, only one issue remains open: the scope of reversed qualified majority voting. – I believe you are all aware of the efforts we have made. The Commission supports the RQMV. So does the ECB, and a number of Member States, but not all of them, or in all places.
But the Council has already agreed to RQMV in five out of six decisions where it is legally possible. On the remaining one, there is a disagreement between the Parliament and the Council.
I believe a solution can be found. I appeal to you to seek a constructive solution on the remaining point in the next few days. And I appeal to the Council too, to respond with a constructive approach on their part.
The Commission will work until the last minute, to the last second, to get a satisfactory solution. Reinforced economic governance in Europe is simply too important to fail on this final issue.
Let's recall that the Council is about to sign the Treaty on European Stability Mechanism, which focuses on correction. But the ESM will only complement the new framework for reinforced economic surveillance, which focuses on prevention and is of primary essence because it will substantially reduce the probability of crises emerging in the future.
President, Honourable Members,
Let me conclude with a simple message. If there is no agreement this week and no vote latest in July, it will be a very bad deal for Europe and its citizens. And it would only result in frustration, bitterness and a worse outcome for everyone, if we must come back to these files in September.
You have agreed on 99.9% of substance. I ask both sides now to make the last centimetres to reach an agreement with each other.
It is of paramount importance, since this package is the cornerstone of our comprehensive response to the still ongoing crisis. It is absolutely crucial for the credibility of the European Union to conclude the package before the summer break – and then move on and put it into use!