||Arrival of Androulla Vassiliou, Member of the EC in charge of Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, to the third session of the high level round table on the"State of Europe - Escaping the Doldrums" at the Edmont Palace in Brussels
||László Andor, Member of the EC in charge of Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, and Androulla Vassiliou
||General view of the round table with Androulla Vassiliou amongst the participants
||Soundbite by Androulla Vassiliou (in ENGLISH): So, for me, it is not so important to have more Europe. Certainly, we need more Europe but for me the big question is: what type of Europe do we need and what type of Europe do our citizens need? I see a problem there. It is a problem of communication. Having regard to the societal and social crisis that has developed out of the financial and economic crisis, I think we have to address this question very carefully because what do the national politicians say to their public? How do they present Europe to their public? What type of Europe do they present to their public? I see a double language sometimes and this is not fair. I see a double language from the politicians, and also from the media. So, I think we have to face this question and ask our political spectrum to be fairer to how they think and how they present Europe. So this is for me a very crucial question.
||Soundbite by Peter Spiegel, Head of The Financial Times (FT) Brussels, (in ENGLISH) asking a question on Ireland's referendum to Dominic Hannigan, Chairman of the Committee on European Affairs of the Irish Parliament
||Soundbite by Dominic Hannigan (in ENGLISH) on Ireland's referendum regarding the fiscal compact in May 2012
||Soundbite by Giles Merritt, Secretary General of Friends of Europe, (in ENGLISH) inviting László Andor to take the floor
||Soundbite by László Andor (in ENGLISH): First of all, this is in my view exactly an area where what the citizens need coincides with what the citizens actually want. We know very well that the European citizens want more jobs and this is a very legitimate need. The problem is that at the time of the crisis and when the monetary union is not functioning very well, it is very difficult to provide it. It is of course primarily the economy business, the private sector but also the public sector, the social sector, which provide jobs but the crucial point here is to see the role of the employment policy and then it connects with Peter's question rather more or better functioning Europe. I think the point is that, in this area, a better functioning cannot be expected without more European coordination. You cannot expect in such a diverse and imbalanced European economy a better functioning labour market to come without a stronger role of the employment policy in the economic governance and closer economic governance through the European semester at the European level and vis-à-vis the Member States.
||Soundbite by Peter Spiegel (in ENGLISH) questioning László Andor on a better Europe
||Soundbite by László Andor (in ENGLISH): Frankly speaking, my assessment is not exactly the same and not as positive as yours about Germany because the question whether you are pro- or not so pro-Europeans, depends on how you relate to the possible solutions of the current crisis. From that point of view, the situation in Germany is not as easy and as good as what you are implying. Because the possible solutions to this crisis do not enjoy such a great support inside Germany as one would expect. So it is not only the presence or the absence of populist extremist political forces which determines the pro or anti European balance in a country or in a region but also the approach of the mainstream political forces to the possible necessary solutions to the crisis.
||Soundbite by Manuel Sarrazin, Member of the German Bundestag, (in ENGLISH) on pro- and anti-Europeans
||Soundbite by Giles Merritt (in ENGLISH) addressing Androulla Vassiliou and asking her a question on employment
||Soundbite by Androulla Vassiliou (in ENGLISH): It is certainly one of our priorities because it is not only the fact that we have high unemployment but we started having a higher unemployment among graduates and there is obviously a mismatch. So, this is our priority; how to create more interest in some of the countries. For example, it hasn't been given any significant or any priority until now to vocational education and training. Vocational education is something we need. It is something we have to encourage but we have to change the whole attitude of the people on how they perceive vocational education. So, we must change their state of mind, the culture of our people and also offer more quality in vocational education.
In our European semester, we say that even those countries which follow austerity measures, they should have smart fiscal consolidation. What do we mean by smart? To give more boosting to the growth enhancing investment and education, the same as research, is among the growth investment that we want to encourage. Look what happened around us; Portugal, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, they are all cutting in their education. And this, of course, is a vicious circle because, not only, we aren't helping with unemployment but we are creating more unemployment for the future. So, we have to change this state of mind of our politicians.
When we speak of growth enhancing, they have to take our word for that and not cut in education and training.
||Soundbite by Peter Spiegel (in ENGLISH) questioning Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica, Chairperson of the European Affairs Committee of the Latvian Parliament, on austerity
||Soundbite by Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica, (in ENGLISH) on the next budget of the European Union
||Soundbite by Peter Spiegel (in ENGLISH) questioning László Andor on austerity
||Soundbite by László Andor (in ENGLISH): First of all, let me say that I am very much in agreement with what we have just heard about the cohesion policy. This should be a much more serious topic on the table because a robust cohesion policy, and within that, a stronger European social fund is absolutely essential if we want to balance out the future growth potential within individual countries and regions inside the European Union. My point on austerity is more general and closer connected with the structure of the Monetary Union .That is why the Baltic experience is so important here. In my view, you cannot assume a sustainable future for the Monetary Union if it is based on the concept of the currency boards. Every Member States of the Monetary Union which is experiencing deficits or challenges financially, like Italy, has to do the same as those countries in the currency boards. If you want to have a sustainable Monetary Union, then you need also not only discipline and flexibility to adjust – wage flexibility, fiscal flexibility - but also a lot more of solidarity; a mechanism of supporting each other, mutualising the risks of finance and everything in that context. Of course, cuts can happen, it is not something which would be completely alien if there is a need to adjust to imbalances and challenges. Or you would have to do consequences from wrong trends or of the past period. One of the adjustments whether it is wages or pensions, I am sure it happens. The point is you cannot assume this as a ruling principle of a Monetary Union and that is why you need to prevent such asymmetries, such imbalances to happen with a better coordination and a better governance structure.
||Soundbite by Giles Merritt (in ENGLISH) questioning Dominic Hannigan on the need of an European education strategy
||Soundbite by Dominic Hannigan (in ENGLISH) on the need of an European education strategy and a greater coordination at the European level particularly in relations to programmes like Erasmus
||Soundbite by Peter Spiegel (in ENGLISH) questioning Manuel Sarrazin on the need of a mechanism for more solidarity
||Soundbite by Manuel Sarrazin (in ENGLISH) on "more Europe" in Germany
||Soundbite by Giles Merritt (in ENGLISH) introducing the video presentation on Debating Europe
||Video presentation on Debating Europe
||Soundbite by Peter Spiegel (in ENGLISH) questioning Androulla Vassiliou on giving the Commission more legitamacy in the decision making processes
||Soundbite by Androulla Vassiliou (in ENGLISH): We had examples in the past. The problem is not there but how do we communicate on what we are doing in the right way. I am sure this people don't understand if we speak in a language that they don’t understand. Of course they will doubt the legitimacy of the Commission. I ask anybody around the table are there many other national administrations more open than the Commission? Everything about us is open. Our agenda is a public document, our finances and our economic situation is a public document, no decision of the Commission is applied unless it is co-decided by the elected Members of the European Parliament and by the National Ministers in the Council. So, is there any administration more open? This is not the problem in my opinion. The problem is communication. How do we communicate what we are doing in plain language to the citizens?
||Soundbite by Peter Spiegel (in ENGLISH) questioning Dominic Hannigan on the voters and the election of the European Commissioners
||Soundbite by Dominic Hannigan (in ENGLISH) on the voters and the election of the European Commissioners
||Soundbite by Giles Merritt (in ENGLISH) inviting Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica to take the floor
||Soundbite by Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica, (in ENGLISH) on the importance of a positive attitude in relation with the support of European integration
||Soundbite by Giles Merritt (in ENGLISH) questioning Androulla Vassiliou on the election of the Members of the College of Commissioners
||Soundbite by Androulla Vassiliou (in ENGLISH): I think José Manuel Barroso, President of the EC, has already indicated that we can do that immediately without any need for treaty changes and certainly the President of the Commission should be elected from the Parliament and from among the political parties of the Parliament. So there is a work that should start immediately. Now as far as Commissioners are concerned, I don't have any concrete proposals but I hear different proposals; half of them should be elected from the Parliament, now I hear that probably it would be a direct vote from each national Member State. Well, any improvement to the system although I do say once again that the way how Commissioners are appointed, they are subject to scrutiny form the Members of the Parliament, I think three hours of interrogation are not an easy thing but I don’t object to the voices that I heard regarding a more direct election as being better and considered more legitimate by the public.
||Soundbite by Giles Merritt (in ENGLISH) inviting László Andor to take the floor on the election of the Members of the College of Commissioners
||Soundbite by László Andor (in ENGLISH): I would say that I also believe that from an institutional point of view, we can speak about democratic deficit and ideas and initiatives to address this but I would caution against overestimating the importance of this question. The person who spoke from the video is a citizen of a country but the citizens have no right to elect the Head of State and the Prime Ministers are also elected indirectly because they only vote for the Members of the Parliament and José Manuel Barroso was elected indirectly and the College of Commissioners was elected indirectly. This is a standard procedure in many countries. We shouldn't take this as an example of some kind of atrocious system which is contrary to the democratic rules that otherwise function in most of the Member States as well.
||General atmosphere at the end of the round table