Growth and employment are the priorities underlined by Barroso in State of the Union

13 Sep 2013

President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso gave his last State of the Union speech before the European Parliament elections next year. This is an annual address to MEPs in which the Commission President attempts on the one hand to convince his audience of the achievements made in the past year, and on the other sets out the agenda for the coming year. If last year he thought no one was convinced, then this year everyone – be it businesses, consumers or the stock market - seems to be convinced that economic reforms and austerity measures are producing results and returning European economies to economic growth. Doubts that this is the reality are merited.

Growth and employment are the priorities underlined by Barroso in State of the Union

President Barroso does well to rein in expectations of quickly moving out of the crisis, but does not do well in admitting mistakes of the past. In calling for “continuing to work together to reform our economies”, the Commission President commits to staying on the course of austerity. The Commission has certainly not convinced the Constitutional Courts in Europe. Only very recently the Portuguese Constitutional Court threw out legislation for the third time in a year which would have seen an unfair burden of austerity being placed on public sector shoulders. The Commission can step as far back as it likes from governments’ national policies, but everyone should also shoulder some responsibility.

“Reforming our economies” will continue to mean what it has meant since the crisis began: greater flexibility, lower wages and a continuing social crisis. If the key to resolving unemployment is growth, then this growth potential needs to be fulfilled. Growth requires investment, not cuts. Jobs require investment, not cuts.

This year, however, President Barroso does not want to concentrate solely on enhancing competitiveness and increasing employment levels. The idea of European values is important, at the base of which are firm political, social and economic standards. In talking about values, President Barroso does not highlight one of the most important values in Europe, the European Social Model. This is a strong criteria for the competitiveness the Commission is chasing.

Looking forward to the future there is some hope for this model. On October 2nd 2013, the European Commission will publish proposals for a strengthened social dimension to economic and monetary union. President Barroso calls this a priority to be achieved together with the social partners. We will wait and see. Until then, a preview can be read from László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion on Developing the social dimension of a deep and genuine Economic and Monetary Union.

CESI agrees with President Barroso when he asks for the blame of the state of European economies not to be placed solely on the doorstop of the European Union. However, if the priorities for the coming months are to continue to be employment and growth, then the Commission needs to make create an economic environment which will help and not hinder these goals from being achieved.