Current developments in the Economic and Monetary Union: Statement by Joost van Iersel, President of the EESC's ECO Section

Joost van Iersel, President of the Section for Economic and Monetary Union and Economic and Social Cohesion (ECO), EESC

When the international economic and financial crisis struck, it exposed the structural limitations and contradictions in EMU, depriving the euro of its propensity to attract. The crisis proves that it takes much more than a set of "accountancy" rules such as the stability pact and others, because the underlying problems are not technical but economic and political. Some progress has been made in the past few years by putting in place new rules and mechanisms, notably parts of a Banking Union, but the construction works are far from being completed yet, which contributes to the persisting climate of uncertainty among citizens and business, and hinders the growth potential of the European economy.

In this context, the ECO section of the EESC discussed the economic implications of the outcome of the British referendum, in which a majority voted to leave the EU, as well as the possibility that some euro area countries will face financial sanctions under the SGP in the near future. We concluded that these developments have to be seen as a wake-up call for our political leaders to take swifter action in order to strengthen the foundations of our Union, in particular the fragile architecture of the Economic and Monetary Union, for only efficient and effective institutions and policies, delivering tangible results in terms of stability and prosperity for the people of Europe, can succeed in regaining our faith in the future of European integration. This can only happen if all Member States cooperate actively and without delay in the process of deepening EMU that was formally launched last year with the Five Presidents' Report and welcomed positively by the European Council. As the EESC has repeatedly called, this process should be further accelerated to ensure more convergence within and among the Member States and to make the EU as a whole more competitive and resilient to external shocks, within a concept of shared sovereignty. The alternative, as we have witnessed it, is disintegration and a rise of tensions along Europe's dividing lines.

Taking stock of past achievements at successive European Summits is not enough. A clear sense of ownership and direction is needed. Work should start as of now on building the missing blocks of a genuine EMU, embracing economic, fiscal, financial, social and political aspects, and including, where appropriate, discussions on a possible Treaty change. We therefore expect a specific and time-bound roadmap for completing EMU to be presented and approved by the European political leaders, possibly in the context of the discussion on the future of the EU at the extraordinary European Summit on 16 September 2016 in Bratislava. This is the only way to reduce uncertainty in the short term and to reassure citizens and investors in our common European future.