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Vice-President of the European Commission and member of the Commission responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro
Speech by VP Rehn at the European Parliament debate on the 2012 European Central Bank annual report
European Parliament, Strasbourg
12 December, 2013
Mr President, Honourable members, President Draghi,
Let me first of all thank the Rapporteur, Mr Pittella, and the ECON Committee for their valuable work on this report.
The ex-post assessment of the ECB's activities by the EP is an important part of democratic accountability of the ECB and a necessary complement to the ECB's independence.
The Commission shares the Parliament's view that the ECB has reacted decisively in a challenging environment and played an active role in stabilising financial markets with the LTROs and OMT.
The Commission has confidence in the conduct of monetary policy by the ECB and fully respects its independence. This includes that the Commission does not comment on the ECB's monetary policy decisions.
Let me instead comment on some issues touched on in the report, which fall into the remit of the Commission's mandate:
First the Banking Union:
The establishment of the Single Supervisory and Resolution Mechanisms is a major step towards completing the EMU and building confidence. The SRM will have to ensure that bank resolution will be orderly and the European taxpayers are protected. We need to finalise the political agreement next week. Maintaining the reform momentum now is key for further progress.
President, Honourable Members,
One issue critical to opening up the bottlenecks of growth in Europe is access to finance of SMEs. Mr Pittella certainly spoke to the point on this.
We have worked hard to put together a truly bold initiative to counter the fragmentation of financial markets and reduce the borrowing costs of European SMEs, because there is no economic growth without credit growth.
Let me be frank with you, as always: the prospective decisions of the European Council next week do not seem to go far enough, nor be concrete enough, in this regard. We, as the European Union, that is both EU institutions and EU Member States, must step up a gear to boost lending – affordable lending – to SMEs.
What should this mean in practice?
First, the EU Member States should be bolder when allocating structural and investment funding for leveraging purposes in support of SME lending. The Commission is fully committed to this as regards the EU budget.
Second, the European Investment Bank and European Investment Fund should consider increasing their lending envelopes to SMEs, which calls for the support by EU Member States as owners and shareholders of the EIB and EIF.
Third, the ECB could benchmark the Funding for Lending Scheme of the Bank of England, which has substantively supported SME lending in the U.K. As we know the U.K. now has a higher rate of growth than eurozone does. You can be sure that the European Commission fully supports you on this. So will the SMEs in Europe as they need affordable lending, if we really want to boost sustainable growth and job creation in Europe.
I trust President Draghi will do his utmost to convince his fellow members of the Governing Council and succeeds in this. It is only a matter of repairing the monetary policy transmission mechanism.
Mr President, Honourable Members,
Let me conclude by underlining that I see much common ground between our views and the Commission's views. It is reassuring to know that I can count on your support in building the sustained recovery we need.
I also agree with President Draghi that we need to use the forthcoming European elections to discuss how to complete the work on reconstructing the EMU. It means building an EMU 2.0, very different from the EMU 1.0 of 20 years ago – and EMU 2.0 will be much sturdier and stronger, ensuring the foundations of sustainable growth and job creation in Europe.
Thank you for your attention, and I look forward to having a constructive and productive debate with you here today.