European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs
Final Report of the CRIS Committee by Ms. Berès
European Parliament Plenary Session
Strasbourg, 6 July 2011
President, Honourable Members,
I want to thank Mme Berès and the shadow rapporteurs for this very comprehensive report. I would also like to thank the CRIS Committee Chair, Wolf Klinz, who so effectively guided the work of this special committee since its establishment in October 2009.
The scope of your task has been enormous, but your method of tackling it has been likewise impressive. The numerous hearings, workshops, studies and visits, combined with dialogue with representatives of European and national institutions, have resulted in a thorough analysis and a broad set of conclusions.
Although this final report represents the completion of the Committee's mandate, it will be important to ensure that your work receives the appropriate follow-up. From the Commission's side, I can assure you that we will pay close attention to this.
Obviously, I cannot comment here in detail on every one of the one hundred and eight paragraphs. But let me make some general remarks.
First of all, as far as the crisis is concerned, it is clear that we are not yet out of the woods. We continue to be primarily preoccupied with the urgent measures to tackle the sovereign debt crisis. We are working to put public finances back on a sound footing and to address the extraordinary challenges posed by the situation in Greece.
At the same time, we need to put in place an institutional and legislative framework which will prevent a repetition of the events of the last three years.
In this context, let me thank all those who have worked smart and hard on the Economic Governance package of the past year.
I can only regret that the Council and the Parliament have not yet been able to find a final agreement on it. Concluding the governance reform is badly needed to show that Europe has the capacity to act and thus restore confidence in our economic prospects.
The adoption of the package is fundamental to our response to the crisis, to strengthening and giving teeth to our economic policy coordination, in terms of both prevention and correction, and for both sound public finances and the avoidance of harmful macro-economic imbalances.
I firmly believe that 99% of this package has been agreed. The Council and the Parliament have made important improvements to our original proposals. 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 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 Excessive Imbalances Procedure.
And, new decision making mechanisms were introduced to the surveillance cycle, with RQMV being applied at all occasions allowed by the Treaty in the macro-economic imbalances surveillance and in the corrective arm of the SGP. And let me recall that 24 out of 27 MS are under the corrective arm of the SGP.
Yet it seems that this is not sufficient and therefore it will not now be possible to conclude the legislative process before the summer break. This is indeed very disappointing. I hope that the Council and the European Parliament will pull out all the stops to reach an acceptable compromise on the issues that still divide them, so that this package can enter into force as soon as possible.
Looking beyond that vote, I welcome the ambition and scope of the vision outlined in the report. I share the view that we must look further ahead and focus on the long-term implications of the crisis for the European project. I assume a clear majority of all of us here agree that deeper economic integration will have to be part of the answer, despite current trends that appear to go in the opposite direction.
Regarding your call for the Commission to present a report on Eurobonds, in the context of the economic governance package, the Commission has agreed to table such a report on the feasibility of Eurosecurities towards the end of the year. 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 Member States enjoying the highest credit standards would not suffer from higher interest rates. This issue really has to be seen as part of the overall governance reform that will materialise through the adoption of the package.
I would also like to tell you that I very much appreciate your support for improving the European Union's role as a global player. Your report underlines the importance of speaking with one voice and pulling our full weight in the global debates on economic issues. The European Union must have a leading role in shaping and implementing economic policies at global level, including in the context of the G20.
I am also glad that you have given particular attention in your report to the issues of competitiveness and convergence and to the Europe 2020 strategy for sustainable growth and jobs. The paramount importance of growth policies cannot be overstated in tackling the crisis.
Your report contains a wealth of proposals here. You can find many echoes of these in the recommendations made by the Commission to Member States at the end of the European Semester.
In fighting the crisis, the European Union weathered the storm in 2008 and managed to avert a financial meltdown. In 2009 and 2010, we managed to protect demand, employment and the most vulnerable members of our societies through an unprecedented and massive fiscal stimulus coordinated at EU level.
We are now dealing with the sovereign debt crisis in several euro area Member States. Evidently, crisis management will have to continue for some time to come.
Apart from crisis management, or "fire-fighting", the European Union has also moved to put in place elements of a systemic response to the crisis: a reform of financial supervision; the legislative package on economic governance; the enhancement of economic surveillance under the European Semester; and the preparation of the financial backstops, the EFSF and EFSM, and the European Stability Mechanism.
President, Honourable Members,
I trust the Commission and the Parliament share the view a convincing response to this crisis and the effective prevention of future crises will require stronger, broader and earlier co-ordination at European level. This is at the heart of the economic governance package that is currently in a standoff between the Parliament and Council.
In my view, the first concrete reaction to the final report of the CRIS Committee, as prepared by Mme Berès, must be the quickest possible adoption of the package. It does not mean a completion of the Economic and Monetary Union, but it is a very big step in that direction.
And it is essential to restore confidence in the European project of deeper integration and an ever closer Union.