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12-03-2008Het Europees Parlement debatteert over voorjaarstop: economische groei en werkgelegenheid, energie en klimaat op agenda (en)
MEPs held a debate with the Council and Commission on the upcoming spring summit, the two-day European Council meeting of EU Heads of State or Government will focus on economic issues. The summit will begin with an address from the EP President, Hans-Gert Pöttering, followed by a discussion.
Opening the debate for the Council, Janez Lenar?i?, Slovenia's State Secretary for European Affairs, gave an overview of the three broad areas on the summit agenda: the need for further progress on the Lisbon Agenda; energy and climate change; and instability on the financial markets. Among specific issues to be addressed by the EU leaders he pointed to the third internal market package for gas and electricity and the question of how to deal with sovereign wealth funds.
Commission President José Manuel Barroso stressed the economic successes of the EU, arguing that the Lisbon Strategy is working. He also warned against the dangers of protectionism and, indeed, saw a renewed Lisbon Strategy as the only way forward for the EU, with the emphasis on higher standards of education and training, more research and innovation and completion of the internal market.
Political group speakers
This is no time to change tack", said Joseph DAUL (FR) for the EPP-ED group. Pursuing the Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs, and redoubling our efforts to make it work in 2008-2010, is the best way to address the challenges of globalisation, population ageing, and climate change, he stressed.
Stepping up R&D investment, supporting entrepreneurs, and making the labour market more flexible, is the right way to enable Europe's firms, and especially SMEs, to add value, quality and innovation, win market share, and create jobs, he continued.
Mr Daul agreed that Europe needs a small business act, and stressed that training, education and lifelong learning are the key to making workers more mobile and flexible. Investing in training and adaptability would also help to relieve the economic pressures of population ageing, he said.
On climate change, Mr Daul stressed that Europe must invest in green technology, but must also enjoin its trading partners to do likewise.
On social policy, he said that the public must be told the truth - i.e. there will no social progress without economic growth.
For the Socialist group, Martin SCHULZ (DE) noted that Ministers were to discuss the idea of a "Mediterranean Union" over dinner, reportedly at France's suggestion. The PES group would welcome this idea, provided that it aims to upgrade the Barcelona process within the EU policy context. However, if the EU were divided over the idea, then it would send a very bad message, and this should be made clear to France, he said.
Mr Schulz thanked President Barroso for taking up Parliament's ideas on the economic policy guidelines, and called on him to urge Member States to put their substance into practice.
"There is progress", he said, acknowledging that "unemployment is down and productivity is up". However, "many new jobs are precarious, wages are not keeping pace with profits, and social imbalances remain. We need more social welfare and protection".
If "economic progress is uncoupled from social responsibility", then "the spirit of the past 50 years will be jeopardised", he continued, adding that corporate relocations, which benefit companies, rather than workers are "a blow to confidence in the EU".
"Of course we need to harness the potential of our young people, by investing in training", he continued, but if funding for this depends on their parents' wealth, then "this does not amount to a social policy", he concluded.
This Council is taking place somewhere on the road between despair and hope" said Graham WATSON (UK)for the ALDE group, citing uncertainties about Turkey, Russia and the Middle East, slowing growth and banking sector crises.
Mr Watson stressed the urgent need to act on climate change, security and stability, noting that in some quarters, "NATO is viewed as an instrument of energy security". "Some Member States are already seeking to limit their commitment to the climate change plan", he said, citing paragraph 18 of the draft Council conclusions. In fact, "only by extending solidarity beyond our borders can we enjoy security around the Caspian and the Mediterranean", he said.
"Despite strong headwinds, economic fundamentals are getting stronger", he noted, adding that some MEPs' concerns about corporate relocation "ignore what's happening in the global economy".
"Half our income comes from trade", he continued, stressing that the world economy is "not a zero-sum game" and that "6.5 million jobs have been created in the past 2 years".
The Council must boost the budget for research, and improve transparency in banking, but in the end, "markets are the most important tool we have to improve living standards", he concluded.
Brian CROWLEY (UEN, IE) began by pointing out that the reality is that one proposal will not lead to the required solution. It will be a combination of all. He spoke of the need to 'try to drag the best ideas out of all the proposals'. As an example, he pointed out that unemployment can't be solved 'simply by saying we want more jobs'. He said that 'only so much can be done by public services ..[..].. ultimately it comes down to businessmen and businesswomen ..[..].. investing more money in creating more jobs'.
Mr Crowley spoke of the challenges ahead - the lack of investment in proper research and development for example and the relocation of European industry and business outside the EU. He went on to say that we need 'to ensure that the foundations that we put down today will be as strong [in the future] as they are today.' Finally, Mr Crowley stated that 'our best and most valuable assets are our young people'. Without proper investment in education and training, 'we risk losing them'.
Rebecca HARMS (Greens/EFA, DE) pointed out that the Lisbon Strategy 'has not solved the problem of the working poor.' She emphasised the need for profits to be distributed equally and spoke of the EP resolution which included 'a special request on central minimum wages' and which had asked the Council and the Commission to take this request on board. Ms Harms went on to say that the Council and the Commission 'need to be aware of marginalisation and tackle this problem ..[..].. particularly in light of the Lisbon Strategy'. She pointed out that it is 'a great pity that neither institution has addressed that suggestion from the EP'.
Ms Harms referred to comments made by a representative of the German Federal Government who had inferred that environmental policy should not interfere with industrial policy. Ms Harms commented that 'it seems to me that they don't understand what sustainability means'.
She concluded by speaking about the Mediterranean union which she claimed demonstrated that 'the EU has no unified policy, either on energy or security of energy supply'.
Gabriele ZIMMER (GUE/NGL, DE) began by stating that 'today we celebrate 50 years of the EP' and commenting that 'I think that what it tells us is that in future neither the Council or the Commission are going to have a docile or patient EP because it will be incumbent on us to give a voice to those who are neglected'.
Referring to the Lisbon Strategy, Ms Zimmer suggested that the summit conclusions should 'spare a line for those who have been the subject of social exclusion'. She emphasised that it is 'not just a matter of us protesting against aggressive globalisation'. Ms Zimmer pointed out that combating poverty, social exclusion and divisions in society 'is not being put high enough on the agenda'.
In conclusion, Ms Zimmer asked how the social dimension of the Lisbon strategy was being put into effect?; what practical steps will be taken to ensure its implementation?; and how can we ensure that the energy crisis will not damage social cohesion?
Jens-Peter BONDE (IND/DEM, DK)spoke of the proposal he has drafted, together with his Irish colleagues, Kathy Sinnott, to add a new protocol to the Lisbon Treaty which would address the issues which arose during the Laval case and 'outlaw ..[..].. the revolutionary decision by the European Court from 18 December last year'. Mr Bonde referred to the reality which now exists in Ireland and in Denmark and the importance of addressing these issues. He urged the Slovenian Presidency 'to raise the question in the summit'.
Mr Bonde concluded by asking "when will we have a consolidated Treaty so that we can understand what the content is?"
Jana BOBOSIKOVA (NI, CZ) for the non-attached MEPs said that the Heads of States' intentions to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% and increase renewable energy use by 20% in a few years time is utopian and could have a negative effect on jobs and industry. She also stated that the EU should focus on attracting the "migration of brains" and concentrate on improving energy efficiency and research and development into nuclear energy.