Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Options for future economic policy in the EU

Slí Eile: I very much agree with Paul Sweeney, writing on this blog site recently
It seems to me that we need more effective EU institutions. We also need EU leadership which is more responsible to its people. Neither are in this plan. But the European people gave the conservatives the majority – even after the collapse of a virulent form of liberalism espoused by those conservatives.
In the new draft strategy for EU2020, as with many EU communications we have a case of all things to all people with something for everyone in the audience – competitiveness, innovation, green technology and of course social inclusion.

While the EU plays an important role as a global player – its institutions and provision for coordination of fiscal and monetary policy across the Union remain weak relative the scale of the challenge, the competition from other world players and the diversity of cultures and levels of economic development within the Union –including the Eurozone.

A major criticism of the draft Strategy is that it speaks of ‘growth’ (growth in GDP) as this is the holy grail and the basis on which various other policy goals can be realised. What about the work of the ‘Sarkozy Commission’ on measuring progress that goes beyond simple GDP?

There are some ideas in the document about addressing unemployment – especially youth unemployment – (e.g. Eures jobs) based on ‘mobility across the EU’ [a slightly ambiguous matter given the history of unemployment and migration in an Irish context]. However, there is a complete lack of how this will be implemented and coordinated and, more to the point, how the devastating increase in unemployment among young Europeans can be reduced as fast as possible. Europe will pay a high price if this problem is not tackled effectively and quickly.

A key question to be asked – just as with the Lisbon Agenda for 2010 – can the EU and its Member States deliver on the multiple goals it can set itself? If the future needs to be very different to the past (pre-recession) modes of production and consumption is the political will there to effect change and to learn the lessons from the catastrophic failure of governance, regulation, trust and market stability witnessed in 2008?

The social dimension of EU2020 is weak and needs to be greatly strengthened.
May be I am missing something – but was there a debate on this draft in the Oireachtas recently? Someone might point to a web link. And has anything replaced the work of the (valuable) National Forum on Europe (axed in line with the Big Snip) in facilitating exchange of information and ‘townhall’ meetings up and down the country?

Social Justice Ireland made a good input during the consultation process towards Europe2020 here.

to quote directly –
The EU 2020 Strategy should therefore speak about values; it must address how the EU proposes to deliver solidarity and a just distribution of resources and well-being; how it proposes to contribute to the development of the impoverished parts of the world as well as fostering a people-centred and green economy.
The document reminds us that
‘80 million people were at risk of poverty prior to the crisis. 19 million of them are children. 8 per cent of people in work do not earn enough to make it above the poverty threshold. Unemployed people are particularly exposed.’
A notable feature of EU2020 is the absence of hard quantitative targets and specification of pathways to achieve particular goals - e.g. ‘Reduce the number of Europeans living below national poverty lines by 25%, lifting 20 million people out of poverty’. Why not just abolish poverty? Important as rolling out ‘ultra-fast’ (‘fast’ isn’t good enough you know) internet connections is – isn’t abolishing poverty more urgent? How about ultra-fast progress on tackling poverty and the causes of poverty to borrow a phrase from another domain.

1 comment:

Slí Eile said...

The EU Commission landed its economic St Patrick's Day greeting yesterday. They are sceptical about the Irish Government's capacity to meet fiscal targets. Alas, more cuts and adjustments are needed and presumably a strong deflationary stance is endorsed. Certainly, the EU Comm. rules out a fiscal stimulus. But, will it work economically, politically and socially? Link is here