[Check Against Delivery]
Vice-President for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro
European Parliament report on the European Semester
Strasbourg, 21 October 2014
Mr President, Honourable Members,
Let me start by thanking the Rapporteur, Mr Philippe De Backer and all the other Members for their valuable contributions to the parliament’s report on the European Semester.
This report is a timely and important contribution to the topical debate on economic governance in the EU.
Your report touches upon a wide range of. Issues, many of which are related your expectations of the Commission in the future.
Provided that the European Parliament confirms the new College tomorrow, the new Commission can be in place at the beginning of November.
So we are currently in the middle of a transition. I therefore hope you understand that – here today – I will not be in a position to answer all your questions related to the future actions of the new Commission.
However, I can assure you that this does not mean that we are not listening. On the contrary. We have taken into consideration the points you have raised in the report. I can also assure you that this will be of the attention of the new Commission.
I fully agree with you that the most pressing challenge ahead of us is to create sustainable growth and generate jobs.
The European Semester has been an extremely useful exercise in identifying and coordinating policy responses to the challenges faced by individual Member States and the EU as a whole.
Member States are adjusting to the reinforced coordination process and common rules we built together in the depth of the crisis. The Semester has proven to be fundamental in presenting incentives for significant fiscal and structural reforms in the Member States. And it is these very reforms that are essential to exit the crisis stronger and more united.
The market turbulence of last week reminded us of the need to stay the course of reforms in order to secure the confidence of the markets, and in doing so, unlock our growth potential and opening up more job opportunities. This continues to be at the very core of the EU’s agenda going forward.
There is clearly room for improvement. The next Commission will review the Europe 2020 Strategy and will present the upcoming Annual Growth Survey to launch the next European Semester cycle.
In your report, there is – quite rightly – a great focus on the importance of implementing and monitoring the recommendations in the European Semester. The recommendations must be concrete. They must not only address fiscal consolidation but also structural reforms that can create sustainable and socially-balanced growth, jobs, and making the EU market more competitive.
The success of the European Semester depends on implementation. This is why we monitor the implementation of reforms throughout the year and take action in case of insufficient or harmful policy developments.
It is important to recall that non-compliance with recommendations will not in themselves trigger sanctions, but neither are they meant to. This is about policy coordination.
Implementation of the country specific recommendations ultimately relies on national policy making and the national parliaments.
In this regard, I wish to take the opportunity to emphasise three significant findings in your report.
First, is the importance of putting in place a comprehensive mechanism that promotes the exchange of best practises between all national – and EU level – actors responsible for getting more young people into work. In this regard, it is essential to speed up the implementation of programmes such as COSME, Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020, with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years.
The second point is to devote more attention to improve the quality of jobs in order to match people’s skills with the real needs of the labour market.
Finally, I strongly support our fight against tax fraud and tax evasion and shift the tax burden away from labour to other forms of taxation that are less detrimental to growth and employment. One such example is environmental taxation.
Mr President, Honourable Members,
I see much agreement between your report and the Commission’s own position. As such, I hope this will be highlighted in our constructive and fruitful debate with you here today.
Thank you for your attention.