Saturday

16th Feb 2019

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."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"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.

Feature

Romania enlists priests to promote euro switchover plan

Romania is due to join the single currency in 2024 - despite currently only meeting one of the four criteria. Now the government in Bucharest is enlisting an unlikely ally to promote the euro to the public: the clergy.

Vestager says 'no' to Siemens-Alstom mega-merger

The EU blocked the merger of the makers of Germany's ICE and France's TGV trains, citing concerns of reduced competition and extra costs for consumers and taxpayers. The two countries now want to change the rules.

'Robin Hood' measure in CAP seems doomed

Commission wanted farmers' EU subsidies to be capped at €100,000, with payouts they would have received beyond that redistributed to smaller farms. But member states oppose the idea.

News in Brief

  1. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April
  2. 15,000 Belgian school kids march against climate change
  3. May suffers fresh Brexit defeat in parliament
  4. Warning for British banks over Brexit staff relocation
  5. Former Italian PM wants Merkel for top EU post
  6. Antisemitic incidents up 10% in Germany
  7. Italy's asylum rejection rate at record high
  8. Hungary will not claim EU funds for fraudulent project

Opinion

Eastern Europe Matters

The foreign ministers of Sweden, Poland and the Czech Republic reflect on 10 years of the Eastern Partnership with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Latest News

  1. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  2. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  3. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK
  4. Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk
  5. EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency
  6. Saudi Arabia, but not Russia, on EU 'dirty money' list
  7. EU agrees draft copyright reform, riling tech giants
  8. Rutte warns EU to embrace 'Realpolitik' foreign policy

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us