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19th Oct 2019

Parliament sets up economic crisis committee

  • The new committee will take a more holistic approach (Photo: EUobserver)

While speculation on future high-profile jobs continued apace on Wednesday (7 October), parts of the EU institutions attempted to concentrate on the job in hand – namely the tackling of the economic crisis.

Their actions were given added relevance by fresh data from the EU's statistics office – Eurostat – showing a second quarter drop in euro area GDP of 0.2 percent when compared to the previous quarter. For the EU27 the fall was 0.3 percent.

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Following a decision taken by parliamentary group leaders last month, MEPs sitting in a plenary session in Brussels voted to set up a new temporary committee to assess the damage wrought on Europe's economy by the year-long onslaught currently showing some signs of abating.

After this initial assessment, the new committee will come forward with proposals to prevent future crises breaking out, including recommendations on the necessary measures to ensure the long-term reconstruction of stable financial markets.

It also aims to evaluate the current implementation of community legislation in different member states and look at the extent to which actions taken by the different governments have been co-ordinated.

The committee will initially run for one year, with the possibility of an extension, and will hold hearings with a range of individuals from international institutions, parliaments, the private sector and civil society.

Asked by EUobserver why a new committee was necessary, German Liberal MEP Wolf Klinz - widely tipped to become its chairman - said the group of 45 MEPs will be able to take a more holistic approach to what is necessary.

"All the other committees can look at specific aspects such as the financial and employment sectors, but here we have the chance to look at the whole range of aspects without limiting ourselves," he said.

Any proposals coming out of the new team will have to go through permanent committees if they are to be turned into legislation, pointed out Mr Klinz, whose background includes extensive work in the industry sector, including a stint as vice-president of EU business lobby group, Eurochambres.

The state of the euro area 2009

Not to be outdone, the commission issued its Annual Report on the Euro Area 2009 also on Wednesday.

The document says "signs of economic stabilisation are emerging", but warns that "the strength and resilience of the recovery has yet to be fully tested".

It talks of the "shielding" effect that the single currency has had on the euro area, preventing levels of exchange rate turbulence that member states have experienced during previous economic crises.

But the document equally points to the growing issues of strained public finances and reduced potential growth as dangerous problems that must be tackled.

Continuing the debate over global imbalances witnessed recently at the G20 leaders' meeting in Pittsburgh, the commission says similar problems within the euro area left some members more vulnerable than others when the crisis struck.

In recent years, countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal and Cyprus ran-up large current account deficits, while others such as Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Finland ran surpluses – highlighting the still variable nature between national economies within the 16-member currency union.

These differences reached an all-time high just before the crisis says the report, accentuating the effects of the crisis when it hit and now hastening the need for urgent reforms.

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