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European Commission's economic decision making needs to become more neutral, say MEPs

14-04-2015

The European Commission’s economic decision-making needs to become more neutral, MEPs said in an Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee debate with Commission Vice-President for the euro Valdis Dombrovskis and Economic and Financial affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici on Tuesday. MEPs also voiced concern about the low implementation of the Commission’s country-specific recommendations and asked what it would do about high current account surpluses in Germany and other exporting countries

Doubts about the Commission's objectivity in economic decision making, prompted inter alia by the extra leeway it recently granted France to get its budget deficit in order, were voiced by Bernd Lucke (ECR, DE). "This was the third time for France. Why? It is unclear to me", he asked.

More neutral decision-making

Marcus Ferber (EPP, DE) described the Commission's decisions on whether or not a country complies with Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) rules as "very political". He called for Commission decision-making to be made more neutral, for example by assigning more importance to the Commission's Chief Economic Analyst's assessments and making this public.

Sven Giegold (Greens, DE) suggested taking up the Greek government’s suggestion that an independent fiscal authority be asked to assess its compliance with the SGP, as the Commission "is not taking full account of member states' fiscal efforts". Mr Giegold argued that the Commission is too tough on deficit criteria and too soft when it comes to judging macro-economic imbalances, for example in high surplus countries like Germany. "Will you push Germany to increase domestic investments?", he asked the Commissioners.

The EFDD's Marco Zanni (IT) said that the success of German exports is mostly a result of "unfair exchange rates" and that Germany should be told "to make a big step forward" on the domestic demand side. "No one will blame Germany for doing too well. But I have been in Berlin to discuss a €15 billion investment package", Mr Moscovici replied.

Eurozone and structural reform

Sylvie Goulard (ALDE, FR) and Elisa Fereira (S&D, PT) insisted that economic reviews of macroeconomic imbalances currently pay too little attention to spillover effects between policies and countries, as they focus on national situations rather than the eurozone as a whole.

Mr Dombrovskis pointed out that the Commission is in fact reviewing the Eurozone as a whole this year, for the first time.

Ms Ferreira also said it is high time to revisit the concept of “structural reform”, so as to improve macroeconomic management in the EU. "We should also look at reforms of justice systems, efficiency of public administrations and education", she said.

Paloma Lopez (GUE, ES) said that higher wages and benefits could help on the demand side. She asked the Commission to push for a European minimum wage. Mr Dombrovskis replied that "some countries may have the fiscal space for this, but others don't. You have to consider the reality in each member state and be very careful not to fall back into a financial crisis, with countries being cut off from external financing”.

In the chair: Roberto Gualtieri (S&D, IT)

Extracts from the opening speeches by Valdis DOMBROVSKIS and Pierre MOSCOVICIExtracts from MEPs debateBackground note on the economic dialogue