Wednesday

20th Nov 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

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.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

EU gives France until 2017 to fix deficit

The European Commission on Wednesday gave France another two years to bring its budget within EU rules, saying that sanctions represent a "failure".

Column

Don't lead Europe by triggering its fears

For a long time, Europe's strategic chattering class has been wondering what would happen if you took the US out of Europe's security architecture.

'A game of roulette' - life as a journalist now in Turkey

Turkey has more journalists behind bars than any other country in the world. The authorities seem to equate journalism with terrorism: everyone has the right to express themselves, but, in their eyes, legitimate journalism is a threat to security.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. New calls for Muscat to resign over journalist's murder
  2. Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president
  3. Don't lead Europe by triggering its fears
  4. Finland: EU 'not brain dead' on enlargement
  5. The labour market is not ready for the future
  6. Parliament should have 'initiation' role
  7. AI skewed to young, male, and western EU, report warns
  8. US and EU go separate ways on Israeli settlers

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us