Thursday

21st Feb 2019

100 days of Juncker: €315bn, LuxLeaks, Greece

  • Juncker has delegated powers to his deputies (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

When voted into office last year, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker warned that this will be the "last-chance commission".

"Either we win back the citizens of Europe, drastically reduce the level of unemployment and give young people a European perspective, or we fail," he then told the European Parliament.

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  • Juncker (r) with new Greek leader, Alexis Tsipras, in Brussels (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

One hundred days into his term, Juncker does not seem any closer to that goal.

Speaking in the European Parliament last week, Juncker said his achievements should not be judged after 100 days, but after five years in office.

His own credibility was shaken in the very first days in office, when the "LuxLeaks" scandal broke, raising questions about his knowledge and involvement as finance minister and then prime minister of Luxembourg in approving complex tax-dodging schemes for corporations like Amazon or Ikea.

Juncker survived a confidence vote in December called by the eurosceptic parties in the European Parliament, promising to push for more stringent tax legislation. But MEPs have not let the story go away and are setting up a special committee to look at all these tax arrangements in member states.

Meanwhile, his flagship initiative - a special fund triggering €315 billion in investments, still to be set up - has been met with scepticism.

"The Juncker commission has some helpful ambitions, it put investment at the centre of the agenda, even if the plan is not great," says Zsolt Darvas from Bruegel, a Brussels-based think tank.

With only €8 billion reallocated from the EU budget and €5 billion from the European Investment Bank, Darvas told this website he is "quite sceptical" the plan will be able to attract €315 billion in investments.

"My major fear is it will not be really new investments. A company is unlikely to abandon earlier projects, what it will do is rather to reduce its other planned investments," Darvas said.

He also noted that the commission had no other means, as the budget is fixed and member states were unwilling to give more money for investments.

On Greece, where the EU commission is part of the troika of lenders the new Syriza government is challenging, Darvas said his major worry is that European partners are "very inflexible".

"My feeling is Syriza is giving in, it has abandoned its key priority in the campaign - debt forgiveness. But from Europe there is no real willingness to give anything. Syriza cannot give everything up, then it would fall apart and we would have political paralysis, possibly a default," Darvas said.

The Juncker commission's line on Greece is that any negotiations have to take place within the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers, where economics commissioner Pierre Moscovici is also present.

The next Eurogroup will be on Wednesday, a day ahead of an EU summit where Juncker is expected to present a report on the eurozone's reforms, what has been achieved so far and what is still needed for the economic and monetary union to work.

Fewer legislative initiatives

One promise Juncker has kept is to clean up the legislative agenda and come up with fewer, but more relevant proposals.

For 2015, the Juncker commission plans 23 new initiatives and 80 will be withdrawn, compared to the former commission of Jose Manuel Barroso, who in 2010 had 316 new initiatives and 22 withdrawals and over 100 per year in the subsequent years.

With his pledge to have a more "political" commission, Juncker has also delegated more powers to his 'vice-presidents' and sent commissioners more to the press room than his predecessor: So far, there were 32 appearances of commissioners compared to 15 in the first 100 days of the Barroso II commission.

In terms of communication, the Juncker commission has also kept press releases to a minimum: three per day compared to 14 a day during the Barroso II commission.

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MEPs: In search of a raison d'etre

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