Fiscal evasion, energy efficiency and education should be the top priorities of the Juncker Commission for this mandate, wrote Henri Malosse. Working towards reducing economic and social disparities in the EU should go hand in hand with fiscal convergence.
Henri Malosse is the President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). Prior to becoming the head of EESC, he served as the director of the French Chambers of Commerce and Industry Delegation to the EU.
The Commission presented its investment plan for the next five years. Is fifteenfold leverage a good idea after the experience of the 2008 financial crisis?
It’s a good idea if this money is really used with intelligence. This means supporting key projects like energy infrastructures, energy efficiency on housing, renewables in territories like islands, which have been neglected due to financial difficulties. Furthermore, to support start-ups, SMEs facing structural difficulties, to support guarantee schemes, crowd and local funding initiatives.
Does the new investment plan have the right elements to address the Europe’s post-crisis investment woes?
The most important element is that these funds should be allocated through truly efficient and effective mechanisms. EU citizens have been disappointed many times these past few years, by too many announcements that led to no results. This means to have flexible procedures, unlike the youth guarantee that was allocated a little over 1 billion euros, but only 40 million has been dispensed a year and a half later. Another important component will be to involve civil society actors, such as development agencies, (and) chambers of commerce among others.
Following the revelation of Luxembourg tax deals, do you think Jean-Claude Juncker is still the right person to lead the Commission, and take Europe out of the crisis?
?Luxembourg has used the lack of European cohesion concerning taxation to its advantage. It makes no sense to create fiscal competition among member states in the eurozone, which is exactly the opposite of creating cohesion. I welcome the engagement of Jean-Claude Junker to work now on a real fiscal convergence in the EU, and to fight against fiscal evasion. But of course I will judge his actions, not just his words.
How can the EESC contribute to encouraging and assisting member states to achieving the goals agreed upon in 2010?
Civil society should be more involved in the implementation of the 2020 Strategy. It is a pre-condition to make it more effective and link it to the expectations of the citizens of the EU. As a European institution representing civil society, we ask that the strategy is revisited in 2015 in order to prioritize in terms of growth and jobs, with the addition of a social chapter, including the youth guarantee.
Was the European Economic and Social Committee involved in preparation of the Commission investment plan?
We presented our contribution, which was unanimously approved by our Committee, to the President of the European Commission. We wanted this contribution to be very concrete, with proposals on par with the expectations of citizens. We are convinced that the best possible investment is in education. Apart from that, investments in the energy sector are a key factor, along with smarter access to finances for SMEs.
You recently suggested that the Commission to publish a Green Paper on how civil society could be organised effectively and on a permanent basis. What’s the added value?
The Lisbon treaty by article 11 foresees a deeper participative democracy. But since its adoption, nothing had moved really. The gap between the citizens and the EU institutions is growing.
A green book could mark a new direction and the real will of the new EU leadership to take in account the needs and expectations of the civil society. But on that matter, the EESC was quite active. I am very proud of our Wind of Change program of reforms in the EESC. Now our members are much more visible by going local.
With our impact assessment on EU legislation and policies, we aim for better regulations on par with the needs of civil society. At the same time, we involve the citizens in the functioning of the EU. With our support to the European Citizens Initiatives, we can help citizens feel co-responsible for the EU’s initiatives.
A Green Paper could give more visibility to our efforts as an EU institution; while at the same time encourage more EU citizens to become active participants in subjects that matter to them, on all levels of governance.