Tuesday

24th Jan 2017

Opinion

Ignoring our problems leads only to crisis

The Commission’s decision to turn a blind eye to the deficits of Spain and Portugal does not bode well for the future. It may yet lead to another crisis and undermine our rules-based Union.

The European Commission still has another chance to decide. Are Spain and Portugal off the hook for their fiscal imbalances? This follows a move, earlier this year, to make similar exceptions for France.

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.

It was the decision to not apply these rules from the beginning that sowed the seeds for the sovereign debt crisis.

In 2003, Germany and France agreed that the two countries would not have to follow the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) and decided that the sanctions mechanism should not be applied.

Other member states soon learned they didn’t have to follow the rules and five years later, when the American financial crisis hit Europe, member states were far more vulnerable than they should otherwise have been.

Do you hear the toll of bells of the past yet?

We must not risk making the same mistakes again for short-term political gain. Rules about fiscal discipline are there for a reason.

Our rules are for all of us

But my criticism is not only about economics, it’s also about politics and the fundamental workings of our Union.

When the president of the Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said France would not have to follow the rules because it was France, he undermined one of the most fundamental principles of the European Union.

The first sentence of Article two of the Treaty of the European Union says:

"The Union shall respect the equality of member states before the Treaties as well as their national identities, inherent in their fundamental structures, political and constitutional, inclusive of regional and local self-government."

True, countries’ voting rights are weighted according to population size, and so is their representation in the European Parliament. But representation is one thing, being obliged to follow rules and regulations are another.

In any civilised political system, based on the rule of law, all subjects to the law should be treated equally. This principle is one of the founding pillars of modern democracy and Western political culture. Otherwise we risk undermining the credibility of our rules, crucial for the credibility of the stability of the European economy as well as the Monetary Union.

Fiscal responsibility is one of the foundations of economic growth and hence of the well-being of European citizens. That rules are followed is one of the prerequisite of a successful society.

The European Commission is obliged to be the guardian of these rules. They are certainly not an expression of Brussels - bureaucracy nor aim for austerity. It’s the other way around, austerity came from the breach of the rules. They are instead the preconditions for a prosperous and strong Europe.

The practise of shirking the rules needs to end.

Gunnar Hoekmark is leader of the Swedish EPP delegation in the European Parliament and Member of the Committee on Economic Affairs.

Opinion

A US dream, or nightmare, for Europeans?

Europeans often like the American people more than they like American foreign policy and US presidents. But the Trump presidency could win favour among Europe’s growing swell of populists.

Opinion

EU cannot copy Australia's offshore asylum model

European policy-makers are increasingly talking about emulating Australia's offshore asylum system, but that system is morally bankrupt, prohibitively expensive and politically disastrous.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Influence of Turkish Politics in Europe After the Coup Attempt
  2. World VisionEU Urged to do Better Ahead of Helsinki Conference on Syria
  3. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  4. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  5. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  6. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  7. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  8. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  9. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  10. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  11. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  12. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London

Latest News

  1. EU says milk protest 'difficult to understand'
  2. Future of euro on EU agenda This WEEK
  3. Pope warns populism could lead to 'saviours' like Hitler
  4. How the EU can protect the world’s forest by tackling corruption
  5. Leftist newcomer takes lead in French Socialist primary
  6. Far-right groups pledge allegiance ahead of elections
  7. Trump pledges US-first foreign policy
  8. GMO opt-out plan remains in waiting room