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Olli Rehn

Vice-Président de la Commission européenne et membre de la Commission responsable pour les Affaires Economiques et Monétaires et l'euro

Turning the tide of the crisis

Colloque sur la réponse européenne à la crise

Paris, le 6 mars 2012

Monsieur le Ministre, Mesdames et Messieurs les députés, chers amis,

Permettez-moi de vous remercier pour votre invitation à cette conférence et de revenir sur notre travail commun pour répondre aux défis économiques actuels.

Pour un Finlandais passionné de culture française et d'économie politique, c'est toujours avec grand plaisir que je retrouve Paris. J'ai choisi de m'exprimer en partie en français, en plaidant pour votre indulgence si ma prononciation septentrionale n'est pas toujours parfaitement académique.

L'urgence des situations que nous avons traversées au cours de ces dernières années nous a laissé peu de répit pour prendre du recul, pour faire le point sur notre action et pour expliquer la stratégie de long terme sur laquelle nous nous sommes engagés.

A travers cette crise, comme je veux vous le montrer aujourd'hui, nous avons en permanence maintenu une ligne directrice conforme aux principes édictés par Jacques Delors. A savoir, "la compétition qui stimule, la coopération qui renforce et la solidarité qui unit". C'est grâce à cette exigence que nous avons réussi à contenir les effets les plus néfastes de cette crise. C'est grâce à elle que nous profiterons de l'opportunité qui nous est donnée de bâtir une Europe plus forte.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Europe is responding to the crisis by reinforcing economic governance, by consolidating public finances and by pursuing policies to promote sustainable growth and job creation. While the euro-area is currently in a mild recession, there are signs of stabilisation. I am convinced that, as a result of our collective efforts and once we keep up recent decisive action, we will witness the turning of the tide in the coming months.

Let me recall that last October the Commission proposed a roadmap to stability and growth based on five main elements. As seen in last week's European Council, we are making very good progress on all of them.

First, the framework for economic governance in the euro area has been completely overhauled with the new legislation that entered into force in December. The Fiscal Compact Treaty has been signed. And proposals on enhanced surveillance and budgetary monitoring are in the pipeline.

The architecture of the Economic and Monetary Union will finally be made robust enough to prevent and withstand the kind of financial crisis that we have been going through since 2009. It will create foundations for a more balanced and sustainable economic development in the EU.

Second, the European banking sector is recovering and the risk of a credit crunch in the real economy has been prevented, largely thanks to the recent ECB long-term refinancing operations. The stress in sovereign bond markets has eased. All this has boosted investor confidence.

Third, the euro-area financial firewalls are being reinforced. It has been agreed to accelerate the start of the permanent ESM by one year to July this year. The combined lending capacity of the ESM and the EFSF will be re-assessed by the end of this month. A larger euro-area financial firewall will also help to unlock a strengthening of IMF resources.

Fourth, measures to raise growth potential are an essential element of Europe's economic strategy and crisis response. The completion of the Single Market 20 years after its foundation will be a major engine for growth. In Member States, long-planned structural reforms in product and labour markets can give a major boost for employment. And public spending and investment decisions both at EU and national levels will have to be taken with growth considerations as the first priority.

Credible policies and their determined implementation will have a strong confidence effect and thereby trigger badly needed investment decisions. That is where growth and employment will be generated from.

The fifth brick of our crisis response is a sustainable solution for Greece. Last week's agreement on the second programme for Greece will help to restore her public-debt sustainability and enhance competitiveness.

A recovery of Greece calls for new investment, both Greek and foreign, into new growth and new jobs. For this to happen, attractive conditions for investment must be created: an efficient and fair tax system, an effective public administration, a better mobilisation of structural funds, and competitive labour costs. We are supporting Greece in its efforts in an unprecedented scale in terms of expanded technical assistance.

And once we have finished fire-fighting, we need to look into tomorrow's challenges, consider next steps in strengthening the euro-area governance, its institutions and instruments. Therefore, the Commission presented the Green Paper on Stability Bonds last November. It opened up a useful public debate, not least thanks to the European Parliament. We underline the basic principle of sustainability: Any step in the further sharing of risk would have to be balanced by provisions that ensure sustainable public finances and minimise the moral hazard. Stability Bonds would have to go hand in hand with a substantially reinforced fiscal surveillance and policy coordination, as an essential counterpart.

We have carefully listened to various proposals over the past months. This includes the one by the German Council of Economic Advisors who suggest such a joint issuance of bonds that would be limited in time and size to bring public debt in all Member States to below 60% of their GDP. While I would not mix this with Eurobonds proper, I find the proposal smart and potentially doable, and certainly worth exploring further.

Mesdames, Messieurs,

Nous avons parcouru un très long chemin au cours des deux dernières années vers l'achèvement de l'Union économique et monétaire avec une architecture appropriée et renforcée. Cette nouvelle gouvernance économique vise à garantir que tous les États membres considèrent leurs politiques économiques comme une préoccupation commune. Celles-ci doivent contribuer à une croissance équilibrée, à la stabilité, à l'emploi et au progrès social.

Même si l'Europe est dans une légère récession pour l'instant, il y a des signes de stabilisation. J'ai la conviction que les réformes entreprises, autant sont-elles difficiles pour nos concitoyens, constituent les bases solides pour une croissance soutenable et pour plus et de meilleurs emplois. Tel est mon objectif et celui de la Commission européenne

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