Wednesday

29th Mar 2017

Opinion

Making Europe's economy work for its citizens

  • "Society, not the markets, should come first" (Photo: West Midlands Police)

In coming days, we will be given another opportunity to further improve the European economy and the lives of our citizens. Our leaders are set to discuss new steps to strengthen the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) when they meet at the European Council later this month.

As Ministers of European Affairs of six EU countries with social-democratic governments, we want to see a courageous reform which will further enhance the EMU’s functioning and credibility. In our opinion, more needs to be done to ring-fence European economies and the European Social 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.

The Euro is one of the greatest achievements of the EU. Having a shared currency has brought tremendous political and economic benefits to citizens and has helped to mitigate negative effects of the global financial and economic crisis in Europe. Nevertheless, the crisis has also revealed that a common currency is not enough.

Given the well-known shortcomings, however, we want to make sure that the Economic and Monetary Union works best for the people’s well-being. Therefore, we argue in favour of a fairer, more democratic EMU that supports economic growth and is people-oriented.

To achieve these goals, the union needs a strong social pillar. The crisis and austerity policies have severely affected the lives of millions of people in several European countries. It has revealed how urgent it is to equip the Economic and Monetary Union with a real social dimension that offers solutions to current social challenges, notably the dramatic unemployment.

In our opinion, this could be achieved through viable reform programmes that introduce minimum social standards, including decent minimum wages according to the level of economic development of individual Member States. Society, not the markets, should come first.

We also want an EMU that fosters economic growth. Fiscal responsibility needs to be coupled with socially balanced reforms and investments to speed up the recovery of our economies. Sound finances are not an end but a prerequisite for strong social systems. We need a stronger “E”, i.e. a real Economic Union as part of the EMU. In practice, this means greater coordination of economic policies also to bridge inequalities between and within countries in the EMU.

We need to ensure that balanced budgets do not come above social inclusion nor the sustainability of welfare states. Our goal for the EMU is economic stability, social cohesion and full employment. We therefore envision more safeguards to secure that citizens no longer pay for the mistakes of the banking sector as well as budget solidarity with countries experiencing a severe economic shock resulting in a sudden increase of unemployment.

Europe’s sound economic recovery should be a common objective of all, with fiscal and social justice at the core of these efforts. To fight tax evasion and tax avoidance, countries should automatically exchange tax-related information, discourage aggressive tax planning, and close tax havens. In addition, fiscal measures ensuring equal and redistributive taxation, supporting a shift to greener economy, and limiting financial speculation should also be introduced and strengthened. To this end we support the rapid introduction of a Financial Transaction Tax.

Lastly, we want a more democratic EMU. It is our responsibility to restore citizens’ confidence in the European Union and ensure they have a say on policies affecting them. The way to do this is to reinforce both, the European Parliament’s role and Member States’ ownership of decisions taken within the EMU. We support a better cooperation between the European Parliament and national parliaments, we want a true partnership of parliaments in Europe.

As Ministers for Europe of social-democratic governments, we seek to achieve these objectives within the existing legal framework. However, no measure should be off-limits and therefore, we will consider all potential measures needed in order to complete the EMU in the medium and long term. Our vision is a union that is inclusive, promotes a strong social model, ensures economic sustainability, and influences lives of European citizens in a positive way.

Miroslav Lajčák, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign and European Affairs, Slovakia; Lubomir Zaorálek, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Czech Republic; Harlem Désir, Minister of State for European Affairs, France; Michael Roth, Minister of State for Europe, Germany; Sandro Gozi, State Secretary for European Affairs, Italy

Deepening Eurozone integration

A report on deepening eurozone integration is being prepared for June's EU summit. "Let’s focus on stability first," recommends the Czech Republic.

EU court says work journey can be working time

The European Court of Justice said that the journeys made by workers with no fixed place to work, at the beginning and end of the day are to be considered as working time.

Analysis

Lukashenka: End of an era?

The political spring in Belarus ended just as the actual season began, but greater changes loom after 23 years of dictatorship.

Analysis

Lukashenka: End of an era?

The political spring in Belarus ended just as the actual season began, but greater changes loom after 23 years of dictatorship.

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

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  2. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers25 Nordic Bioeconomy Cases for Sustainable Change
  4. European Free AllianceSupporting Artur Mas: Democracy and Freedom Cannot Be Convicted
  5. UNICEFSyria Conflict 6 Years On: Children's Suffering at Its Worst
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsDomestic Violence in Tajikistan: Time to Right the Wrongs
  7. European Trust SummitCorporate Strategy and Public Affairs in a Low-Trust World - Conference 31 May
  8. Malta EU 2017Agreement Reached to Involve Consumers in Financial Services Policymaking
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cities Gather Against Violent Extremism & Introduce Nordic Safe Cities
  10. World VisionFears and Dreams of Syria's Children and Their Peers Around the World
  11. Malta EU 2017Maltese Presidency and EP Agree on Visa Liberalisation for Ukraine
  12. Mission of China to the EUEU Window Chinese Government Academic Scholarship 2017/18 - Apply Now