Friday

19th Aug 2022

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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

Is this strange summer a moment of change?

It is a strange, strange summer. The war in Ukraine continues, 60 percent of Europe is in danger of drought, and Covid is still around and could rebound in the autumn. At the same time, everyone is desperate for normalcy.

Russia puts EU in nuclear-energy paradox

There's unprecedented international anxiety about the safety of Ukraine's nuclear reactors, but many European countries are also turning to nuclear power to secure energy supplies.

News in Brief

  1. China joins Russian military exercises in Vostok
  2. Ukraine nuclear plant damage would be 'suicide', says UN chief
  3. Denmark to invest €5.5bn in new warships
  4. German economy stagnates, finance ministry says
  5. Syria received stolen grain, says Ukraine envoy
  6. Truss still leads in next UK PM polling
  7. UN chief meets Zelensky and Erdogan over grain exports
  8. Fighting stalls ahead of UN visit, Ukraine says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  4. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis

Latest News

  1. European inflation hits 25-year high, driven by energy spike
  2. No breakthrough in EU-hosted Kosovo/Serbia talks
  3. Letter to the Editor: Rosatom responds on Zaporizhzhia
  4. Could the central Asian 'stan' states turn away from Moscow?
  5. Serbia expects difficult talks with Kosovo at EU meeting
  6. How scary is threat to Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant?
  7. Slovakia's government stares into the abyss
  8. Finland restricts Russian tourist visas

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us