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IEP Lunch Debate with Dr. Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut: “On the path to a stronger Europe in regards to growth and stability- Positions and Perspectives from the View of the Federal Government”

Dr. Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, Head of Department 5 (European Policy) of the Federal Chancellery, gave an address “On the path to a stronger Europe in regards to growth and stability- Positions and Perspec­tives from the View of the Federal Government” in the Repre­sen­tation of The European Commission in Berlin on 2 July 2013. Prof. Dr. Mathias Jopp, director of the Institut für Europäische Politik, moderated the event.

The lecture from Dr. Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut took place a few days after the European Council meeting in June 2013 and was held partly in light of the upcoming meeting of the EU labor and social ministers as well as the heads of state and government, which dealt with the fight against youth unemployment in Europe.

Dr. Meyer-Landrut referred to the bank restruc­turing directive agreed by the ECOFIN Council in June, which estab­lished clear rules for a bank settlement procedure. This procedure is also tightly linked to the decisions on bank recap­i­tal­ization. A further important step to cope with the economic and financial crisis is the agreement on the Multi­annual Financial Framework 2014–2020, which estab­lishes the framework for the future struc­tural funds from 2014. However, further reforms in the eurozone member states are inevitable. This is a lesson that can be drawn from the Asian financial crisis of the 1990’s, in which all of the affected states had to – sooner or later – go through the same adjustment process. Those states that faced the challenge of adjustment early on achieved the best results.

Regarding the question of sanctions for member states that are contrac­tually obligated to implement economic reforms, Dr. Meyer-Landrut noted that it is difficult for the European Commission to supervise the adherence of these agree­ments, since the Commission is a party to the contract itself and thus poten­tially faces a conflict of interests. Partic­u­larly at an early stage, reforms should be stronger accom­panied by already existing proce­dures and mecha­nisms. In order to prevent the deviation of individual member states from its reform programs, a wide spectrum of measures is conceivable, in which incen­tives rather than sanctions should play an important role.

Dr. Meyer-Landrut also briefly turned to the topic of youth unemployment in Europe, which was already strongly pronounced in currently partic­u­larly affected countries such as Greece, Italy, Spain and France before the current economic and financial crisis. He empha­sized that the EU member states are the central actors in the fight against youth unemployment, since labor market policy falls into their area of compe­tence. European insti­tu­tions and money can only have a supporting effect.

The European contri­bution to the fight against youth unemployment is the imple­men­tation of a 6 billion Euro program through the European Social Fund. However, this is not an additional program; the funds are part of the Multi­annual Financial Framework (MFR) and are conse­quently at the expense of other areas. Furthermore, funds from the Social Fund of the previous MFR that were fed back into the national budgets will be used to support small and medium-sized enterprises.

An indirect measure to make the European economy more dynamic is the deepening of the single market. The modern­ization of the EU Directive on the Recog­nition of Profes­sional Quali­fi­ca­tions is an important step towards more mobility in the European labor market. Finally, a future Transat­lantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the EU and the USA promises to become a strong growth engine.

Dr. Meyer-Landrut did not entirely rule out the idea of a treaty revision in order to develop economic policy at European level. However, before a decision in this regard, it is necessary to discuss which measures can be taken to stabilize the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). A revision of the entire contract, as demanded by some states, is not necessary; selective contract amend­ments are sufficient.

Finally, Dr. Meyer-Landrut noted that some decisions of the European Council on the devel­opment of the EMU are overly optimistic and create excessive expec­ta­tions. The estab­lishment of a European bank super­visory authority is a good example. While the European Council announced the imple­men­tation of the super­vision for January 2014, the European Central Bank stated that it will take until approx­i­mately one year after the agreement on banking super­vision for oversight respon­si­bil­ities to begin. First, the European Parliament must agree to the banking super­vision, and second, practical steps such as the employment of further personnel (approx. 1,000 new employees) must be taken.

According to Dr. Meyer-Landrut, the future of the EMU lies in reinforced economic policy coordi­nation among the member states. In this respect, the German-French paper from May 2013 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the German-French Economic Council has made a series of recom­men­da­tions that both countries want to bring into future delib­er­a­tions of the heads of state and government.

By Jéronimo Barbin