Main preoccupations remain the same for EU over months ahead
Writing exclusively for Endeavour Public Affairs, Rebecca Harms MEP, Co-Leader of the Greens/EFA group of MEPs in the European Parliament, looks ahead to the new parliamentary year. For her, many of the issues dominating the agenda in the new year will be exactly the same as those that dominated the agenda before the summer recess. In her article she makes clear her belief that a comprehensive economic, fiscal and political union, with proper European democratic oversight, is the only way forward.
The summer break provided a pause for breath but the main preoccupations of the EU will remain the same over the coming months. Twenty ‘crisis summits’ on, and EU leaders appear no closer to resolving the Euro crisis, despite their attempts to bypass the democratic process and cobble together late night minimalist deals.
Credibility remains at the core of the problem. Markets remain unconvinced that Europe’s political leadership is able to deliver a lasting and comprehensive solution to the crisis. European citizens are also growing increasingly frustrated with their politician’s handling of the crisis and the lack of accountability.
It is clear that a comprehensive economic, fiscal and political union, with proper European democratic oversight, is the only way forward and EU governments must work together with the EU institutions to realise this as soon as possible.
The June EU summit ostensibly agreed some important measures for responding to the economic and financial crises – breaking the toxic and debilitating cord between banks and sovereigns, while moving towards a full banking union. However, not only were these measures only a small part of the bigger picture required for solving the crises, they were also being picked apart by EU member states before the ink had dried on the summit outcome. This reinforces the crisis of credibility and the markets responded in kind.
We will only draw a line under the crisis by mutualising sovereign debt and introducing Eurobonds and we urgently need a roadmap towards this. In order to relieve the pressure in the interim, the immediate introduction of a banking licence for the ESM and a common debt redemption fund are necessary.
European economies also need a true perspective for recovery and this means urgently moving beyond the narrow austerity focus. The ‘growth compact’ agreed in June also falls short of the credibility test, being insufficient and based on questionable assumptions. The EU needs an ambitious investment strategy to stimulate the sustainable transformation of its economy and create lasting employment. The enormous problems of tax havens and evasion, which account for €100 billion in terms of lost revenue in the EU, must also be addressed.
That these tasks fall at the door of Cyprus again highlights the issue of credibility. Not only is Cyprus itself in need of economic assistance, it is also a Bermuda Triangle for taxation, facilitating arbitrage.
Simmering threats to democracy both within EU member states – notably Romania – but also at EU level – with the current debate on the Schengen border-free zone – will also feature high on the agenda.
The EU must address the recent moves to undermine democratic institutions in Romania. Romania committed to EU democratic values when it joined the EU and this commitment remains just as important now as then. Failure to act must be sanctioned. This must be treated as a priority for the Union as a whole, and not become a tit-for-tat between centre-left and centre-right political families.
The Schengen border-free system, which is one of the major positive achievements of the EU, remains under threat from member states seeking to reintroduce border controls. The scandalous attempts by EU governments to exclude the European Parliament from the democratic decision making process on Schengen will also hang over Cyprus’ EU presidency. The European Parliament will not take this lying down and the Council should move to redress the situation.
The long-awaited reforms of the Common Agriculture and Fisheries Policies will also feature prominently over the coming months. Regrettably, fisheries ministers are trying to weaken some of the positive elements of the CFP reform proposed by the Commission, such as on discards and maximum sustainable yields. We must not miss this opportunity to put the CFP on a sustainable footing.
The CAP needs a radical overhaul to promote sustainable farming and food systems, based on sustainable use of natural resources and aimed at preserving biodiversity and preventing climate change. It should help create fair incomes and decent employment in farming, supporting rural economies.