Looking to a brighter future for Europe
Europe is at a crossroads after years of struggling to cope with the effects of the economic crisis, but the fundamental economic and political changes that have resulted from our response to the crisis have shown us the right path to take towards a far brighter future. This was the main message of Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič at a high-level conference in Bratislava on 31 May.
"How we respond to the crisis, the new structures and policies that we put in place to ensure that it never happens again, will set the tone for the future development of the EU as a whole, not just the economic governance of the Eurozone," he told delegates at the conference 'The EU in 2013: how to restore confidence and growth?'
From the sweeping changes to the economic governance of the euro to a raft of measures to boost competitiveness and tackle youth unemployment, the EU has acted swiftly and decisively not only to address the impact of the current crisis but also to give Europe a far better chance of avoiding similar problems in the future, V-P Šefčovič said.
But he warned that while he was confident that the measures would soon start to show positive results, Europe must also remain vigilant about public opinion. "The measures we have already introduced are starting to have an effect, and we can perhaps finally start to see a light at the end of the tunnel; and yet at the same time the public perception of the EU and its response to the crisis has never been lower."
Addressing these two problems is the key to a brighter future, he said. "The answer to our problems is more Europe, a deepening of cooperation and a pooling of sovereignty…the best example of this, for me, is the European Semester, our new approach to economic policy coordination."
The latest phase of the current European Semester – the publication by the Commission of Country-Specific Recommendations for all 27 Member States – took place on 29 May, and V-P Šefčovič used his trip to Bratislava to present the recommendations for Slovakia to the national parliament there, the third time he has done so.
He also met with members of the Slovak government to discuss the recommendations, praising the government for the "impressive consolidation and the progress made on important reforms" and stressing that the Commission looked forward to working closely with the government in Bratislava on key issues for 2013 such as "growth and job creation, tackling unemployment and social exclusion, and making more efficient use of EU structural funds".