Germany, Spain divided over EU 2020 ‘sanctions’

German Economy Minister Rainer Brüderle reacted negatively against what he described as plans by the Spanish EU Presidency to “sanction” member states who do not comply with the European Union’s growth objectives. EURACTIV Spain reports.

Brüderle said he generally supported the ambition of Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to coordinate in a more efficient way the economic policies of the EU’s 27 member states, but warned against introducing additional bureaucracy. 

His comments prompted the Spanish EU Presidency to respond quickly. Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said on Monday that Spain had not in fact officially proposed to make sanctions part of its plans to replace the Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs with a new 10-year strategy, dubbed ‘EU 2020’. The plans are likely to be discussed at the next EU summit, to take place in Brussels on 11 February (EURACTIV 05/01/10). The Spanish Presidency aims to get the strategy adopted at a 17-18 June meeting of EU heads of state and government at the very latest (EURACTIV 19/11/09). 

“We are still at the beginning of evaluating proposals,” said Moratinos, adding that any decisions would be taken by consensus and with the approval of all member states. He explained that Zapatero had not said that sanction mechanisms should be introduced, but rather that the way in which the Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs had been applied needed to be improved. 

However, the international press on Friday (8 January) quoted Zapatero as saying that the Union should set binding economic goals for member states under the ‘EU 2020’ vision (EURACTIV 08/01/10). This could hardly be seen as a misunderstanding by the press, as EURACTIV had already given detailed information about Zapatero’s proposals before they were made public (EURACTIV 07/01/10). 

Spanish daily El País writes that little time had elapsed between the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty and the beginning of the first conflict between federalists – who want a stronger Union – and eurosceptics. On the side of the federalists, El País lists rotating EU President Zapatero, EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy and Liberal group leader in the European Parliament Guy Verhofstadt, who have all spoken in favour of more economic power at EU level with sanctions against those who do not comply. 

“This initiative has raised the alarm in Germany and in the UK, with the reticence of the latter expected to grow with the entry of the Conservatives into power this spring,” the daily writes. 

El País further writes that Verhofstadt has sent a letter to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso lamenting what he called the “failure” of the Lisbon agenda, largely due to the lack of biting instruments at EU level. The letter coincided with EU President Van Rompuy’s visit to Madrid on the occasion of the launch of the Spanish EU Presidency, which saw Zapatero call for sanctions to be incorporated into the Union’s economic governance structure. 

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