jueves, 28 de octubre de 2010

The EU after the crisis: between revolt and persuasion

The economic crisis remains the main concern of Europeans, and so economic governance is being at the heart of the debate at the European Council (being held today and tomorrow). The main challenge now is to move from emergency mechanisms (risky and unsafe) to structural reforms in order to assure financial stability throughout the Member States. Many questions are being raised, such as "Does eurozone need a permanent bailout fund?" Probably, aside from our capacity to foster economic growth in the whole EU.

But here comes the revolt. Germany is playing a leading role these days, so we may ask where Germany is heading to. Up to now Merkel has clear plans for tougher eurozone rules, reinforced with the French support after the franco-german meeting at Deauville last week, where both countries reached a deal to enshrine new rules by Treaty modification. Some say, quite rightly, that this would mean opening the Pandora box once again. Many Member States feel surprised about this Berlin-Paris action. It remains to be seen if this proposal is received with total hostility in the Council today. For instance, Juncker (current president of the Eurogroup) said the Franco-German plan is unacceptable, as it implies a risk of instability. Many Head of Governments and Ministers are worried about the issue of institutional reform. Are we ready for a new Treaty reform? Not likely to be passed as soon as needed (by 2013, when the current financial assisting mechanisms are due), particularly when some countries are even eager to renationalize (maybe the UK?) EU powers. Some even consider alternative options, like including modifications in Croatia's accession treaty to be signed next year. On the other hand, we undoubtedly need a budget consolidation and discipline in the eurozone. But there are voices stating that creating a permanent crisis mechanism for the eurozone should not require Treaty change (except for the suspension of voting rights, proposed by Germany and France). So, get ready for a very intense battle. Let's hope there is still a good option to handle the crisis for everyone.

Regarding the love and persuasion concepts, the Commission has taken it seriously, so is leading a campaign to win for the European Union the gratitude of its 500 million citizens. Commissioners Reding and Barnier announced yesterday (Official Press Release) a bundle of measures promising “everyday solutions to the everyday problems of citizens”, based on the 25 main obstacles that citizens may confront throughout their lives based on their complaints. They insisted on the idea that markets need to serve both the economy and our citizens, whereas Barnier added that the single market is not delivering as well as it might.

As an example, Reding said she wanted to improve consumers' rights by improving protection for travellers who book holidays over the internet, for existing consumer protection covers only packages combining travel and accommodation, while more and more consumers are buying flights and hotels separately. They also put forward the Single-market Act, which includes initiatives to help small and medium-sized businesses obtain financing, simplify accounting rules and improve access to public procurement contracts. The Commission will also propose measures to improve the market for digital music by creating a one-stop shop for artists to sell their work throughout the EU, and so on... up to 25 measures. It looks quite impressive and now is our task and responsibility to let citizens know about these new rights and opportunities. This is valuabe benefit for the consumer (or the citizen as a costumer), and it's a good example of what we expect from the EU. So let's proceed!