Eight years after the start of the economic crisis, recovery in the European Union is still weak and uneven, with member states struggling to put their debts under control and unemployment still too high. MEPs discuss the challenges during a plenary debate on the annual cycle of economic policy coordination within the EU, on 24 February. Parliamentary committees have prepared reports calling for structural reforms that create jobs and boost productivity.
The European semester is how EU countries are trying to better coordinate their economic policies. The European Commission first prepares a general outlook on the EU and common priorities that has to be approved by the EU heads of state. Then, country-specific recommendations are proposed by the Commission, endorsed by the governments in Council, that have to be implemented in every country.
The plenary debate on Wednesday afternoon is based on reports by the EP’s economic, social affairs and internal market committees on the general outlook for the EU, spelled out in the Commission’s Annual Growth Survey.
EU economy: more investments and demand needed
The report by the economic committee, prepared by Maria João Rodrigues, a Portuguese member of the S&D group, argues that the recovery can be strengthened through structural reforms and a boost in demand. “In Portugal, austerity has brought unemployment, poverty and economic emigration but also amnesty for rich tax evaders,” she said: “Many people struggle to provide for their families or give up on having children altogether. None of this has improved the country’s competitiveness.”
In her opinion the “euro zone needs to be managed as one economy”: countries that export much more than they import “can afford to increase wages and domestic investment, so that domestic demand rises and the whole euro zone achieves higher growth.”
Social impact of reforms
The report by the employment committee, drafted by Sofia Ribeiro, a Portuguese member of the EPP group, says creating quality employment and generating growth must be placed at the centre of member state and EU policies. “In order to ensure real development, I support a European policy based on structural reforms, fiscal consolidation and sustainable investment, alongside an analysis of social and economic impacts,” she told us ahead of the plenary debate.
Speaking about the crisis in her country, she said “we had to resort to external assistance, because we could not, at the time, ensure the most basic social functions of the state”, but complying with the “impositions of creditors had a devastating social impact”.
The role of the single market
The single market is the backbone of European economies, so advancing it will help to create jobs, points out a report by the internal market committee, prepared by Catherine Stihler, a UK member of the S&D group.
The plenary debate on the economic policy in the EU is the second item on the agenda on Wednesday afternoon, and should start at about 16.30 CET. Watch the plenary live on the website of the European Parliament.
Compliments of the European Parliament