Tuesday

16th Oct 2018

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.

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

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.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. EU ministers struggle to deal with Poland and Hungary
  2. Commission tried to hide details of 'WiFi4EU' glitch
  3. Brexit standoff continues before EU summit
  4. ASEM: Global Partners for Global Challenges
  5. How Juncker's 'do less' group concluded EU should not do less
  6. Cyprus and Russia: Association of Cyprus Banks responds
  7. Orthodox church split just tip of Putin's crumbling 'soft power' in Ukraine
  8. Daily reality in Western Sahara - and how EU can protect it

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us