Thursday

17th Aug 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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

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.

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 / Brexit Briefing

The return of the chlorinated chicken

Britain has only just started on the path towards a post-Brexit trade deal with the US, but you can already see the same all-too-familiar disagreements.

Stop blaming Trump for Poland’s democratic crisis

If you were to judge events purely on the US media's headlines, you would be forgiven for wondering if the Polish government had anything to do with its recent controversial judicial reforms.

News in Brief

  1. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  2. European Union returns to 2 percent growth
  3. Russian power most feared in Europe
  4. Ireland continues to refuse €13 billion in back taxes from Apple
  5. UK unemployment lowest since 1975
  6. Europe facing 'explosive cocktail' in its backyard, report warns
  7. Danish police to investigate misuse of EU fishing rules
  8. German constitutional court questions ECB's €2tn spending

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  2. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  3. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  4. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  5. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  6. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  7. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  8. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  9. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  10. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  11. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides
  12. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy