The EESC is concerned to note the euro area's economic downturn and the gradual end to a fall in unemployment, wedded to the persistent higher incidence of risk factors affecting economic performance. It is the European Green Deal that the EESC sees as the backbone of the future EU and euro-area economic configuration – the potential start of a fundamental change and a turning point. If managed successfully, it could move Europe up a gear economically and socially; if not, its failure could fatally jeopardise the integrity of the EU.
Euro area economic policy (2018) - Related Opinions
The EESC is of the opinion that building economic resilience, an objective that underlies the recommendations of the European Commission on the economic policy of the euro area, is of the utmost importance for the euro area economies. However, the Committee would like to stress that the pursuit of economic resilience should go hand in hand with increased labour market resilience, that is, the capacity of labour markets to weather shocks with limited social costs.
The EESC agrees with the aims of the Council Recommendation and with some of its proposals. However, it expresses its disagreement with the proposal for the aggregate fiscal stance of the euro area to be neutral, as well as with the way that the recommendation on salaries is formulated.
This opinion is on the Annual Growth Survey 2018 (AGS), which establishes the main economic priorities and provides policy guidance for the following year. The European Commission published the 2018 AGS on 22 November 2017 as part of the European Semester Autumn Package. The 2018 AGS is focused on fostering job creation and growth and establishes three main priorities: boosting investment to support the recovery and to increase long-term growth; structural reforms for inclusive growth, upward convergence and competitiveness; responsible fiscal policies to support sustainability and convergence.
This opinion is part of a wider package of four EESC opinions on the future of the European economy (Deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union and Euro area economic policy, Capital Markets Union and The future of EU finances). The package of opinions underscores the need for a common sense of purpose in the Union governance, which goes far beyond technical approaches and measures, and is first and foremost a matter of political will and a common perspective. For this reason, the EESC considers it essential to have a balanced mix of euro area economic policies, with their monetary, fiscal and structural components properly interlinked. The Committee notes the improving economic situation in the euro area and recommends that, in order to maintain and bolster this, crucial steps be taken to stimulate investment and carry out reforms, while also strengthening the social and democratic dimensions of euro area governance.
The EESC appreciates the European Commission's effort to apply an economic policy that focuses on supporting the strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth of the euro area as well as a balanced mix of monetary, fiscal and structural instruments in order to achieve this, including a positive fiscal stance.
The EESC welcomes the establishment of economic priority programmes for the euro area at the start of the European Semester. To achieve a recovery of growth and employment a mix of financial, taxation, budgetary, economic and social policies is needed. In contrast to the recommendation of the Commission, the focus of fiscal policy should be designed to be more expansionist than neutral. The EESC advocates the reduction of taxation on labour insofar as it does not threaten the financial sustainability of social protection systems. The EESC calls for a coordinated effort to create a more business-friendly environment for SMEs through better regulation, adequate financing and facilitation of exports to markets outside the EU. There is a particular need to open up new funding opportunities for micro-enterprises and start-ups.
A genuine stabilisation of the economic and monetary union (EMU) can only succeed if the deficits in the EMU architecture are solved and to this end major reforms are undertaken. The longer the current austerity policy continues, that primarily looks at spending cuts without the addition of an effective investment plan and measures to enhance income through growth, social cohesion and solidarity, it will become increasingly clear that Europe's economic integration and prosperity is at risk from growing social inequalities. The EESC calls for greater "parliamentarisation" of the euro area, with a grand EP committee comprising all members of parliament from the euro area and from those countries wishing to join (26 Member States), combined with stronger coordination of members of parliament from the euro area on EMU issues (COSAC +).
The European economic governance rules, conceived in crisis, played an important role in fiscal consolidation and economic policy coordination, but the cost was high in terms of growth and employment. The quantitative easing measures now being embarked upon by the European Central Bank need to be matched by greater political initiatives by the Member States. In the review of the Multiannual Financial Framework in 2016, there is a need to back urgent structural reforms of common EU interest with some form of fiscal capacity. A reasonable deviation from the 3% deficit parameter should be considered as a temporary exception for a given number of years and not be automatically liable to sanctions. A lack of implementation of country-specific recommendations (CSRs) could be countered by real involvement of civil society and the social partners in drawing up CSRs.