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EU economic and budget policy coordination needs to become a political animal

EU-wide coordination of national budgetary and economic policies must become more political, democratic, and include more stakeholders, says an Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee opinion evaluating the economic coordination done in 2012. The opinion, voted Tuesday, also calls on national parliaments to play a greater role in this coordination and urges the European Commission to check that countries put its recommendations into effect.

The resolution, drafted by Jean-Paul Gauzès (EPP, FR), takes stock of the various "European Semester" economic policy coordination proposals agreed at EU level and then translated into action at in each EU member state.

The opinion pinpoints many areas in which the Commission and the member states could improve coordination.

Less bureaucracy, more politics

European Semester arrangements are too bureaucratic and insufficiently political, says the resolution. It contrasts the lack of debate on EU-wide economic policy coordination with the open and democratic debates that help to shape national economic policy making in each member state.

The resolution notes that in many member states, national parliaments, social partners and civil society were not involved in the European Semester and asks the Commission to remedy this in 2013.  It also asks the Commission to keep a closer eye on how each country implements its recommendations, and the Council to explain why it sees fit to modify country-specific ones.

MEPs ask that the European Parliament be more extensively involved in the next Semester cycle and notably at the early stages.

Growth as well as expenditure control

In future the Commission needs to focus on a wider spectrum of issues, says the resolution.  It recognises that cutting costs and improving competitiveness remain important, but also says that the EU 2020 growth goals need to be reflected better, as does tackling tax evasion.

The Commission should also pay more attention to the negative spill-over effects that national economic policies can have on other countries, say MEPs, who point out that EU legislation enables the Commission to do more in this area.

Finally, the resolution calls on the Commission to recognise the role of the EU budget in the European Semester process, since it is an integral part of the EU's public expenditure. It likewise urges member states to refrain from scaling back the EU budget required to meet the commitments they themselves made in the "Compact for Growth and Jobs".