Thursday

30th Mar 2017

EU presidents: 'We're not dismantling the welfare state'

EU chiefs Herman van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso defended their austerity-focussed response to the bloc's economic crisis against criticisms of MEPs who accused the leaders of taking an "unbalanced" approach.

"Some people fear this work is about dismantling the welfare states and social protection," European Council President Van Rompuy told deputies in Strasbourg. "Not at all ... It is to save these fundamental aspects of the European model."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"We want to make sure that our economies are competitive enough to create jobs and to sustain the welfare of all our citizens and that's what our work is about."

European Commission President Barroso, who was delivering a report back from an EU summit at the end of March dedicated to delivering a ‘comprehensive response' to the crisis, also said that his institution had tried to push for a more social response but laid the blame at the the foot of the member states for blocking proposals from the EU executive.

"The commission did fight hard to have more emphasis on social aspects and education [in the Europe 2020 strategy, its ten-year plan for growth]," he said, adding that a Europeanisation of public debt has long been a goal, saying "eurobonds were proposed 30 years ago."

On making banks pay their share of the burden, he said: "I defended the financial transaction tax in the G20 ... [but] this was rejected by a huge number of our G20 partners. Now we are discussing it at the European level."

"Let's be honest once again. Several member states are fundamentally opposed to it. They will not agree."

He also said that it was the commission that has pushed for lower interest rates to be paid on the Greek and Irish bail-outs.

"I am proud of the fact that the commission and myself have supported the idea to reduce the interest rate which is being paid by Greece and we are now doing the same for Ireland because this is fair."

"We cannot impose costs which are very difficult for Greek or Irish citizens to pay."

He did however concede that he is worried that Europe is splitting between the haves and have-not states.

He said he wants "to avoid a Europe divided on north-south or centre-periphery lines."

He was responding in particular to criticisms from the centre and left of the house.

During the debate, Socialist leader Martin Schulz attacked Barroso for the bloc's failure to make public investments at the same time as pushing for cuts to public spending.

He also accused Barroso's political party, the centre-right Portuguese Social Democrats, of "bringing down the government for implementing the policies that you and the Commission demanded." 

On Tuesday, credit rating agency Moody's downgraded Portugal's debt while Portuguese bankers are also demanding the country's caretaker government request an interim loan from the EU until after the general election.

Political analysts have said that the caretaker government does not have the mandate to request a bail-out and negotiate the attendant package of austerity measures that come tied to such a lifeline.

Commission stops German-British stock merger

The decision to block the merger of the London Stock Exchange and Deutsche Boerse was expected, as negotiations between the parties broke down a few weeks ago.

SMEs lack support in EU financial plan

The European Commission's plan for a capital markets union is said to be aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises, but many could end up being left out in the cold.

Eurozone chief in 'drinks and women' row

[Updated] The Netherlands' Jeroen Dijsselbloem faces calls for resignation after saying that crisis-hit countries in southern Europe spent "money on drinks and women" before being helped by others.

Greek bailout talks to 'intensify'

Greece and its creditors will meet in Brussels later this week to unblock negotiations needed for a new tranche of financial aid, amid concerns over the country's economic situation.

Stolen Russian billions ended up in EU states

Illicit money flowing out of Russia ended up in almost every single EU state, an investigation has found, posing questions on the integrity of Europe’s banking systems.

News in Brief

  1. UK delivered its Article 50 letter to the EU
  2. Support for Germany's anti-EU party fading
  3. Turkish intelligence not welcome in Germany
  4. US senate approves Montenegro’s Nato bid
  5. Scottish MPs give go ahead to seek referendum
  6. Uber pulls out of Denmark over new taxi-regulation
  7. EU court validates sanctions on Russia's Rosneft
  8. Luxembourg to team up with Ireland in Apple tax appeal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The Idealist QuarterlyCan Progressive Stories Survive Our Post-Truth Era? After-Work Discussion on 6 April
  2. ACCAG20 Citizens Want 'Big Picture' Tax Policymaking, According to Global Survey
  3. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  4. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  5. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  6. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  7. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  8. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  9. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  10. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  12. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans