At its 500th plenary session, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted an opinion urging Europe's new leaders to take action to complete European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). Shaken by the economic and financial crisis, Europe needs to emerge stronger by stepping up its fight against stagnation and unemployment.
The opinion puts forward specific proposals and solutions to achieve a more robust EMU governance structure, leading to more growth and jobs in the short run, to a full economic union as a second step and ultimately to a political union as a necessary point on the horizon. This is a timely call in the light of the reshuffle currently underway in the EU institutions. "The Economic and Monetary Union, which is far from being accomplished, is indispensable to re-create confidence in the European project and makes it sustainable", warns Joost van Iersel (Employers' Group, NL), one of the two opinion rapporteurs.
Stronger to face the future
Much still needs to be done to improve the functioning of EMU and bring back prosperity to Europeans. Firstly, the EU needs to launch a genuine European pact for growth, employment and stability, built on a better implementation of current legislation and driven by public and private investment, for example through bonds issued by the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund.
Secondly, as the crisis brought to light deficiencies in the EMU architecture itself, more robust structures should be put in place to ensure sustainable and balanced economic performance and prevent future crises. To achieve this, the EESC underlines the need for full commitment from the Member States to overcoming current distrust and mitigating deeply rooted feelings of national sovereignty, which is better guaranteed in a common economic and political framework. The EESC therefore proposes a strategy to complete the EMU based on four pillars:
“But the most urgent question that we wanted to draw to the attention of the Council and the Commission is the need for a European plan for investment in growth and jobs, without adding to national debt,” says rapporteur Carmelo Cedrone, an economics professor and trade unionist (Workers' Group, IT). “That is what is needed – not words or long texts without concrete proposals, which is what we have had up until now.”
Before the vote on the opinion, EESC members held a lively and insightful debate with Peter Bofinger, a member of the German Council of Economic Experts, and Edmond Alphandéry, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) and former French Minister for Economic Affairs. The guest speakers concluded, in full agreement with the opinion, that euro-area institutions should be further strengthened, capital, service and labour markets more integrated and a common economic policy ensured in order to meet the expectations of European citizens in terms of prosperity and quality of life. Committee members expressed the need to enhance democratic legitimacy by engaging all stakeholders in society and thus build a stronger EMU for the benefit of all Europeans. The opinion was adopted with a large consensus among the EESC's three constituent groups by 195 votes to 8, with 9 abstentions. It is thus set to become an important contribution of organised civil society to the debate on a roadmap for the next term of office of the European Commission and the European Parliament.
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