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Commission can do better on economic coordination, say MEPs

Much more must be done this year to cut unemployment, thoroughly democratise EU economic governance and ensure that structural reforms foster growth, says Parliament's opinion, voted Thursday, on the European Commission’s Annual Growth Survey of the EU. This survey kicks off this year’s European Semester process of economic policy coordination among EU member states.

The House voted on three resolutions, drafted by the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, the Employment and Social Affairs Committee, and the Internal Market Committee.

The Commission's emphasis on austerity was hotly contested by many MEPs. Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee rapporteur Elisa Ferreira (S&D) even withdrew her name from the text after the vote, saying it was insufficiently critical of austerity's impact on jobs and growth, and that the vote was "a disservice to Europe's citizens".

The resolution prepared by the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee "welcomes the spirit" of the Commission's arguments.  It goes on to say that although milder austerity would have been preferable, “some Member States did not have an alternative to regain market access and see investment return”. The resolution was approved by 329 votes to 271, with 13 abstentions.

Take account of the impact of austerity measures

The need to assess the likely short-term impact of austerity measures, especially in countries in recession, was stressed in the Employment and Social Affairs Committee text, drafted by Veronica Lope Fontagné (EPP, ES).

This text urges the Commission to adjust the impact of the multiplier effects of austerity measures on employment and social conditions, according to the IMF recent revisions. The resoluton was approved by 483 votes to 104, with 20 abstentions.

Grant more breathing space

Both resolutions point out that the EU's new "six-pack" economic governance rules do allow for some flexibility to give EU countries breathing space in severe downturns. This flexibility should apply more often, they say.

Refresh Semester topics

The resolutions also list factors which Parliament believes should play a more prominent role in the Semester, such as the role of the EU budget in delivering growth and economic convergence, and how best to ensure that every player and step in the Semester is democratically accountable.

Single market governance

Single market governance should also be made an integral part of the Semester, says a separate resolution drafted for the Internal Market Committee by Andreas Schwab (EPP, DE) and voted on Thursday.

The Commission should prepare an annual European Semester report on single market integration, including country-specific recommendations, says the text. The resolution was approved by 527 votes to 30, with 31 abstentions.

Background

The annual growth survey marks the start of the "European Semester" economic policy coordination process, which aims to ensure that member states align their economic and budgetary plans with the EU Stability and Growth Pact and the Europe 2020 strategy. The survey covers the EU as a whole, but country-specific recommendations will be included later.

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