Wednesday

20th Nov 2019

Germany opposes Spanish call for EU economic sanctions

  • Homeless people in Madrid - the EU is set to step up debate on a new economic plan over the coming months (Photo: AntarticoNorte)

A call by the Spanish EU presidency for financial sanctions under a new EU long-term growth strategy has sounded alarm bells in Berlin, sharpening debate ahead of a leaders meeting's on economic issues in February.

Speaking in Madrid last week, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero said there needed to be incentives for member states to promote economic performance, and also "corrective measures" for failure.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

The call has prompted a chilly response from Germany however. The country's economy minister, Rainer Bruderle, said on Saturday (9 January) that he welcomed the idea of better economic co-ordination, but warned against creating "a new bureaucracy."

"I do not think the idea of imposing sanctions on member states for not fulfilling fixed targets is sensible," Mr Bruderle said in a statement. "Up to now, the Lisbon strategy has been based on a partnership approach without sanctions and we ought to continue that."

The Lisbon Strategy is the bloc's current 10-year economic plan, due to expire this year and the subject of much criticism due to its failure to make member states conform with economic targets.

As the EU's largest economy, German support will be crucial in securing European agreement on its future economic direction.

Spanish daily El Pais reports that the idea of potential sanctions and a greater role for Brussels has also met with a lukewarm reception in London and a number of northern capitals.

The debate on how to pull Europe's economy out of its current hole is set to intensify in the coming months, with eurozone figures out on Friday showing unemployment for November hitting 10 percent, the highest rate since the currency was launched a decade ago.

Added to feeble EU growth forecasts of below one percent for this year, news on Friday that China has now officially overtaken Germany as the world's largest exporter also serves to highlight Europe's predicament.

Support from the Liberals

Despite the signs of opposition, the Spanish proposals appear to have the support of a number of important players in Brussels, including the new permanent president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and the leader of the Liberals in the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt.

Speaking in Madrid last Friday, Mr Van Rompuy, a former Belgian prime minister, showed his support for stricter controls.

"We need a stricter method of government and a better control of the process," said the permanent president, set to go into greater detail at the informal summit of EU leaders being convened at his request in February.

According to a letter sent to European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso on Friday by Mr Verhofstadt, the Lisbon Strategy has "failed" due to "the lack of commitments from member states and the absence of mandatory instruments at the EU level."

Also a former Belgian prime minister, the Liberal leader added that the commission should be empowered to play a greater role in boosting the EU's economic growth, and that the EU's structural fund payments be used as a mechanism to promote the achievement of economic targets.

EU enters decisive period for economic plan

The next few months will be decisive for the European Union's future economic health, with the bloc set to agree a new 10-year economic plan in a bid to leave the recent recession behind, and chart a fresh course towards steady growth and job creation.

Spain to push for binding EU economic goals

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has said the EU's new 10-year economic plan, set to be agreed over the coming months, should have binding goals and "corrective measures" for member states that do not comply.

Juncker calls for greater eurozone oversight

Eurozone chief Jean-Claude Juncker has called for better oversight of the 16-member currency area, with a greater role for the European Commission to reprimand countries for falling behind.

EU agrees 2020 budget deal

EU governments and the parliament agreed in marathon talks ino next year's budget - which will boost spending on climate, border protection, and the European satellite system. It will also be a benchmark if there is no long-term budget deal.

EU and China agree to defend 'gastronomic jewels'

Manchego cheese, Panjin rice and Polish vodka will all be protected under a new EU-China agreeement. But the two trading giants continue to struggle over other trade-related deals.

Opinion

Why von der Leyen must put rights at core of business

Ursula von der Leyen's in-tray must include those European executives on trial for systematic workplace harassment, the break-up of European slavery rings, and allegations of European companies' abuse in palm oil, including child labour, land grabs, and deforestation.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. New calls for Muscat to resign over journalist's murder
  2. Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president
  3. Don't lead Europe by triggering its fears
  4. Finland: EU 'not brain dead' on enlargement
  5. The labour market is not ready for the future
  6. Parliament should have 'initiation' role
  7. AI skewed to young, male, and western EU, report warns
  8. US and EU go separate ways on Israeli settlers

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us