A public debate on ‘New Pact for Europe’ was organised by ELIAMEP on Wednesday 26 February 2014, at 19:00, at R/S 9.84 Amphitheatre in Gazi (Peiraios 100 – Kerameikos metro station). The event, the video of which is available here, opened with the welcome address by its moderator and President of ELIAMEP, Professor Loukas Tsoukalis. Then, Mr. Giannis Emmanouilidis described the state of the Union, acknowledging inter alia that, although the economic prospects of the EU have improved, the uncertainty about the future remains. Also, he outlined the key elements of the five strategic options for the EU future, as they have been set out by the New Pact for Europe Project.
Professor George Pagoulatos pointed out that the response of the EU to the crisis incorporates features of the second and third strategic option and could be characterized as “reluctant” but effective, given that a collapse of the banking systems in the European periphery was avoided and the Eurozone integrity was maintained. The handling of the crisis was based mainly on national consolidation programmes and austerity measures, without being accompanied by stabilization policies at the European level. He added, also, that what is necessary is a decisive action at the EU level, which will include elements of the fourth option and prevent a future crisis; in turn, this includes -among other things- a more generous system of EU resources’ allocation, the establishment of a European unemployment benefit system, a symmetrical distribution of adjustment costs and the banking union combined with the common deposit guarantee system. At the same time, the EU periphery countries should take all necessary actions to adjust their economies. With this policy mix the EU could be transformed into a positive sum game.
Ms. Dora Bakoyianni (Member of the Parliament, “New Democracy” Party, former minister) expressed her amazement on how it is possible in times of crisis and in light of the upcoming European Parliament elections, that the European political parties have not prepared an elaborate political agenda concerning the future of Europe. She mentioned that the real dilemma that we have to deal with is to choose between the return to national approaches as a result of the crisis or the leap towards the political unification of Europe to deal with the crisis. She pointed out, also, that a larger EU budget is required, a “central ministry of finance” is needed and a minimum of principles in areas such as energy, taxation and social policy should be applied across Europe. She stood in favour of the European banking union and the EU right to veto over the national budgets. With regard to political unification, Ms. Bakoyanni argued that the EU chief executives should be elected, whereas we are not even close to a unified EU representation in the Security Council. She also underlined the lack of a great vision and flexibility and, in conclusion, argued that major issues should be decided at the European level and all other minor decisions should be left to local governments.
Mr. Dimitris Papadimoulis (Member of the Parliament,“SYRIZA”) began his comments by describing the structural problems of the Euro. Then, he criticized the report under discussion, focusing on the lack of assessment of the current state of the Union, as well as on the fact that the economic and social impact of the options is not adequately mentioned. He argued that the current policy of the EU could be placed into the second and, to some extent, the first option. He stood in favour of a combination of the third and the fourth option as an EU future strategy. He mentioned specific required changes, such as the estimation method of the EU’s own resources, which will allow the increase of both the EU budget and the transfer payments. Mr. Papadimoulis referred to the degradation of the objectives of social cohesion and climate change, to the decline of the welfare state and the rule of law, as well as to the growing inequalities between the Northern and the Southern countries. In conclusion, he argued that the EU should urgently find solutions to the issues of employment, growth and prosperity, otherwise it will not only be the EU in danger but democracy as well.
Mr. Tassos Giannitsis (Former minister, Professor emeritus at the University of Athens) mentioned that the study recognises the problematic situation where the EU finds itself. He made special reference to the first option, arguing that in case it is chosen, all other options would be spontaneously cancelled. Also, he referred to the fourth option, underlining that deeper integration only in particular areas might create new problems in the EU function. Moreover, he proposed that the fifth option could be complementary to all others as well. Mr. Giannitsis suggested that different options could be followed to achieve different targets in various policy areas. According to him, it is necessary firstly to set the targets and, then, to select the suitable option. He also mentioned certain sectors where targets could be set in order to select the appropriate option, such as banking supervision, social policy, economic recovery, employment and convergence. As for the prospect of deeper political integration, he wondered whether citizens care more about the democratic legitimacy of policies or the policies per se.
In the discussion with the audience that followed, the main opinions and proposals expressed could be grouped as follows:
Proposals that might be included in the proposed options:
- European parties have to express more clearly their positions on European policies;
- More effective function of the EU institutions will contribute to a better management of the actual problems of the citizens;
- Raising the citizens’ awareness on the EU policy matters.
Proposals that might influence transition from one strategic option to another:
- Development of common perceptions on the EU challenges among all member-states and the EU as a whole in order to find common solutions;
- Emergence of political elites with vision and goals for common future;
- Greater economic cohesion and enhancement of common principles among EU citizens, in order for the EU to move towards a strategic option with no exclusion of any member-state;
- The EU transition from one strategic option to another depends on the clear identification of the current option adopted by the EU.
The event concluded with a vote. The majority of participants were in favour of the fourth strategic option.
You can find here more information on the New Pact for Europe.