We met tonight to prepare the June EC decisions on our "Growth Agenda" in Europe.
We will continue to pursue our comprehensive strategy to return to growth and job creation. Our approach rests on ensuring fiscal consolidation to be assessed on a structural basis, deepening structural reforms to strengthen competitiveness and ensuring financial stability.
The European Semester, including the National Reform Programmes and Country Specific Recommendations on fiscal and economic policies, provides us with the right framework to ensure that fiscal consolidation and growth go hand in hand.
The EU 2020 strategy is the basis for our growth initiatives. In the short term, we will structure our work around the following 3 pillars:
- First, we need to mobilise EU policies to fully support growth. We therefore invited the European Parliament and the Council to make rapid progress on important legislative proposals, such as the Single Market Act and the Energy Efficiency Directive. We should finalise the remaining issue of the European patent before the end of the Danish Presidency. Colleagues also called for the full and consistent implementation of existing legislation, notably regarding the services directive and argued in favour of a strong impetus for the Digital Agenda. The Commission and the Council need to pursue their work on how to better use international trade as an engine for growth. There are several major trade agreements under way which would benefit the European economy.
- Second, we need to step up our efforts to finance the economy through investments and better access of SMEs to credit. Reforms must go hand-in-hand with investment and EU funds can play an important role in this regard. To this extent, the EIB Board is invited to consider an increase of its capital by June for financing projects across the EU. We welcome the political agreement of the Council and the European Parliament on the EU-EIB Project Bond initiative, in order to launch the pilot phase this Summer as a first step. The Commission will report in June on the reprogramming of the current Structural Funds to support growth, jobs and training. Colleagues mentioned equally the need to continue work and discussions in the Council on the FTT as well as examine the issue of late payments. We will discuss in June how to fully gear the next Multiannual Financial Framework to growth and job-enhancing policies.
- Thirdly, we need to strengthen job-creation. Therefore, the EU and its Member States also invest in skills and training. In order to promote a job-rich recovery, it is necessary to make concrete reforms and take measures to support labour demand and job-creation in key sectors of the economy. National Job Plans should be given high prominence in the follow-up of Country-Specific Recommendations and fully used to better stimulate synergies between national and European instruments, including the Structural Funds, in particular to combat youth unemployment. This could be done on the basis of the youth guarantees and quality traineeships. Colleagues said that mobile workers should be better supported, their portability of pension and other rights be enhanced.
Finally, we held an in-depth discussion on the latest developments in the euro area, during which we also reaffirmed our commitment to safeguard its financial stability and integrity.
Our discussion also demonstrated that we need to take EMU to a new stage. There was general consensus that we need to strengthen the economic union to make it commensurate with the monetary union. I will report in June, in close cooperation with the President of the Commission, the President of the Euro Group and the President of the ECB, on the main building blocks and on a working method to achieve this objective. Colleagues expressed various opinions on issues such as eurobonds in a time perspective, more integrated banking supervision and resolution, and a common deposit insurance scheme.