An EU Summit without purpose

European Council - Meeting with social partners - round table. José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg Prime Minister, Angela Merkel, German Federal Chancellor, Donald TUSK, Polish Prime Minister (from left to right). (Council of the European Union photographic library, 27/6/2013).

European Council – Meeting with social partners – round table. José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg Prime Minister, Angela Merkel, German Federal Chancellor, Donald Tusk, Polish Prime Minister (from left to right). (Council of the European Union photographic library, 27/6/2013).

The most important news from the first day of the 27+1 EU leaders’ gathering (European Council) yesterday was that the Ecofin council of the 27 ministers of Finance managed to come up with an agreement over the bank resolution and recovery, and also that the EU Parliament agreed with the Commission on the Union budgets for the next seven years. Both presidents of the Commission and the EU Council, Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy, in their joint Press conference, after the first day of the summit, paid their tributes to the Ecofin ministers and the EU Parliament. The Banking Union is the main item on the leaders’ agenda today.

Yesterday apart from that, the heads of EU states and governments discussed about growth and jobs. Unfortunately on both accounts the balance is always negative. It is even more discouraging that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Even if the European Union, after two years of GDP losses, enters in a weak growth path towards the end of this year or the beginning of 2014, there will be no impact on new job creation.

Barroso

To get an idea about the futility of the discussion about jobs and growth in the leaders summit it suffices to follow the Commission President’s introductory remarks in the Press conference. Barroso started his introduction by analysing the meaning of the term ‘confidence’ as if he was a linguistic expert. Then Barroso referred to structural reforms and the country specific recommendation drafted by the Commission, to enhance growth in member states.

As if he suddenly understood the futility of those remarks he said: “But, reforms are not enough, and the reality is that sometimes reforms are taking too long to produce results, especially in terms of employment. This is why we also need investment, investment for the SMEs and also investment for the most acute social problem in Europe which is unemployment, including particularly unemployment of young people…This youth employment initiative of €6 billion we have decided it will be frontloaded, it means: used already in 2014 and 2015…”

Then Barroso concluded by making references to the important decisions taken outside the summit conference room, namely the approval of the Directive on Bank resolution and recovery and the agreement between Parliament and Council on the next seven EU budgets (Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020). In short what the 27+1 leaders did yesterday in Brussels was to welcome decisions taken elsewhere.

Van Rompuy

The same conclusions can be drawn from Van Rompuy’s account for the first day of the EU Council. He said: “Let me brief you on the outcome of the first working day of the European Council. Even before we started, it was already a very productive day for the European Union. Late last night: a good decision by finance ministers was taken on how to restructure and resolve failing banks. This morning: the last hurdle for the launch of the Union’s multi-annual budget was cleared in an agreement between Council and Parliament at the highest level, brokered together with the Commission President”. Obviously according to Rompuy also the most important news came from outside the leaders’ room.

As for the discussion in the Summit, Rompuy’s remarks were of general character describing rather procedures than concrete argumentation. Of course he referred to the burning issues of youth unemployment and the credit suffocation of SMEs. What he had to say however about those problems was limited to the fact that the Summit was attended by representatives of the social partners that is employers and workers. Not a word about what the social partners had to say. He just concluded, “we had a good exchange of views”.

It’s frustrating to watch 27+1 leaders to convene to Brussels at the expenses of the European taxpayers, at a time when half of Eurozone and two-thirds of the EU are in an unseen before crisis for three years now and have nothing to say or do. They just waited for the agreements in the Ecofin council and the EU Parliament.

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