June 9, 2009
We know how limited the influence of the European Parliament (EP) is in the shaping of the EU’s economic policy and in managing the current financial and economic crisis. And we also know that what parties say before parliamentary elections is not necessarily the policy they implement afterwards, especially not if it is the EP that it is elected.
But still: we decided to take a look at the positions of the major parties on economic and financial issues and in particular whether there is an EMU dimension to what they have to say. Afterall, the Parliamentary Committee on Monetary and Financial Affairs since the start of EMU has become more and more active, in particular in its dialogue both with the ECB and the Eurogroup President, and it has in the past issued reports on the reform of EMU governance. Hence we publish a review of the major parties' positions on economic governance.
Today we start out with the Europeans People’s Party (EPP) which gained 263 seats in the new PE and went into the elections with a joint party manifesto.
Its positions with regard to economic governance and the Eurozone are pretty unspectacular. Its very first point on this issue is the quest for a "better coordination of fiscal and monetary policies" and to be “careful not to bend the rules of healthy public debt management more than absolutely necessary for special action. […] The Stability and Growth Pact remains the main framework for ensuring financial discipline.” This sounds very much like a Franco-German compromise to say something on EMU, but on the lowest common denominator.
The second mayor concern in the manifesto’s section on economics and finance is to “Prevent a resurgence of protectionism within the EU” and to protect the single market. “European governments have to resist the temptation to use the economic downturn as a pretext and use taxpayers’ money to bail out uncompetitive industries.”
So the major concern of the PPE seems to be that the current crisis does not erode the ordo-liberal setting of the EU. Regarding crisis management and future prevention, only a few points emerge from the programme, such as rebuilding “the international financial architecture” with a “clear demand to strengthen international cooperation in the framework of an enlarged G-20 and other international institutions, taking also the increased role of the emerging economies into account.”
The PPE furthermore seeks to improve financial sector surveillance and the transparency and accountability of financial institutions: “Especially the risk potential of newly introduced financial instruments has to be assessed and the regulators should not allow instruments and practices which they don’t understand.” Furthermore, the PPE wants a “European-wide and rule-based regulatory system in the financial sector [...] to be introduced as a consequence of the current crisis in the financial markets.”
On the problems in the European banking sector the PPE remained opaque, stating merely the need of “Concrete political and economic actions to be undertaken in order to re-energise the ailing European banking sector. Banks must swiftly return to their original functions, that is, channelling credit to the real economy in order to finance companies and businesses”.
Regarding the future of economic policy making in the EU, the PPE says that "the creation of jobs is [their] core priority". Then, there are some suggestions why may be part of the answer, how: for instance by increasing overall spending on research and development to 4 % of GDP by 2015 as well as spending more on green technologies. It sticks to the goal of cohesion policy as an "important tool to promote the goals of the Lisbon Strategy". This sounds a little retro as most observers consider the Lisbon Strategy to be as dead as a dodo and policy makers are in search of a new narrative for the EU’s future growth strategy – some even dreaming of a kind of “New Deal”…. Anyway, the PPE wants these priorities to be reflected in the revision of the EU budgetary perspectives. Furthermore, it wants to have a systematic assessment of the impact of legislation on companies and employment and calls for more efforts in European transport policy in order to achieve an efficient Trans-European transport network.
Regarding EU and EMU governance, we should hence not expect new political impulse from the largest Parliamentary group in the EP.
We will next analyse the election manifesto of the European Socialists.