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Vice-President of the European Commission and member of the Commission responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro
Speaking points at the Press Conference of the Eurogroup
Eurogroup Press Conference
Milan, 12 September 2014
Thank you Jeroen. It is nice to be here again after a few years. The last time I was at a Eurogroup meeting, Mr. Juncker was the President of the Eurogroup. As I have chosen to follow him wherever he wants to go, we both look forward to starting our work at the European Commission, should the European Parliament allow.
As Jeroen has already informed you about the topics we discussed, I would like to focus on three issues that are important in the pursuit of better economic growth and jobs.
First, we need to accelerate structural reforms.
Without real reforms, effectively implemented, we will not have sustainable growth and job creation. No country is immune from the need to reform. Our challenge is how to use the existing economic governance framework more efficiently to support the adoption and implementation of structural reforms by Member States.
Second, we need to ensure sustainable fiscal policies, while improving the quality of public spending.
When money is tight, there is little choice but to make savings, but there is always a choice as to how to make those savings. Reducing expenditure rather than raising taxes, and cutting current expenditure rather than future-oriented investments, can ensure that fiscal consolidation is growth-friendly.
Our fiscal rules allow for some flexibility, provided the economic case for adjusting targets can be made. Flexibility should be granted because it makes economic sense, not for any other reason. And the application of flexibility should not in any way undermine the credibility of our fiscal framework.
And third, we must support investment, both public and private. We can work at both national but also at European level to do this.
At national level, countries with large current account surpluses should commit to invest more. And all countries should prioritise investments in research and development and key infrastructure.
At European level, the extra public resources we will mobilise should be used in particular to draw in more private investment. I know that this will be a guiding principle underpinning the €300 billion investment plan announced by President-elect Juncker, which will be prepared in the coming months.
At the same time, we need to ask ourselves what is holding back private investment in Europe. We need to ensure the business climate and regulatory environment is favourable to companies investing in the future, innovating, developing new markets and creating new jobs.
Just very briefly about the €300 billion package, which is, of course, not yet ready because the new Commission has not started, I think that there should be at least two parts to this. The first is the public part. How could we spend, in a more efficient way, public resources and public funds in order to finance investments, for instance. The other part is the area in which we have to devise how to create a better internal market, single market for various industries. The latter part is even more challenging that the first part, because we have to find right tools, right obstacles and right answers in order to create a better Single Market, for instance, for digital products.
I am looking forward to a constructive discussion on these issues tomorrow at the informal Ecofin, and to hearing the views of all the ministers around the table about these common challenges.
Thank you very much.