German Social Democrats unveil plan for growth


The German Social Democrats have indicated to French President François Hollande that they will support him in adopting a European pact to boost growth, but that they would like to keep this separate from the fiscal compact treaty. EURACTIV Germany reports. 

Social Democratic Party (SPD) leaders Sigmar Gabriel, Frank-Walter Steinmeyer and Peer Steinbruck published yesterday (15 May) a 5-page document, titled “The way out of the crisis – Growth and Employment in Europe”.

"We developed our program in the closest collaboration with the French Socialists," SPD Chairman Gabriel stated on the occasion.

But the party's main message is clear: hands off the fiscal pact. The German Social Democrats simply want to supplement it with a stimulus package and investment. Funding for these measures, however, shall not be through debt.

"The fiscal pact will not be at the centre of negotiations. It’s about adding something to it", Gabriel said.

"We don’t want to go back on the road to debt. That must be excluded. This is a lesson we should learn from the European crisis. We propose supplementing fiscal rigour initiatives with growth. But the latter must be funded,” leader of the SPD parliamentary group Steinmeier reportedly said.

The dramatic social situation in some countries threatens the fundamentals of European integration, SPD politicians warned. This is why they want to launch a programme against youth unemployment, which must be "financed at first by unused resources from the European Social Fund," the SPD said.

Creating a European investment fund is the focus of the SPD plan. This instrument, with €80 billion coming from different sources, should enable the EU to invest quickly on targeted projects in countries in crisis.

In addition, the SPD is favourable to increasing the firepower of the European Investment Bank, an idea also advocated by François Hollande. After a period of silence, the government of Angela Merkel has also shown support for the measure.

The SPD proposes a €10 billion increase of the EIB's own funds and that it could leverage over €80 billion of additional funds to support economic recovery in Europe.

"Project bonds” are also on the list of measures unveiled by the SPD. "Together with our French friends, we believe that we must overcome opposition to project bonds," said Steinmeier.

However, the German government no longer opposes the launch of a pilot phase. The Commission proposal, submitted in October 2011, will soon be adopted by the Council, an EU diplomat told EURACTIV France.

As a source to finance growth and employment, the SPD supports the introduction of a financial transactions tax (FTT). The French president has also opted for this approach. To override the opposition of the United Kingdom, which opposes the tax for fear that it will harm London's financial industry, the Social Democrats want to use the possibility of enhanced cooperation between at least nine EU countries.

The three SPD leaders reaffirmed that the vote on the fiscal pact in the Bundestag could under no circumstances take place on 25 May, as initially planned.

"This government's timetable is no longer on the table, and the new is not yet fixed," Steinmeier said.

François Hollande, who became the seventh president of the French Fifth Republic yesterday (15 May), made his first trip to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the same day.

The French president wants to launch an immediate challenge to German-imposed austerity policies in Europe and negotiate the addition of add pro-growth instruments such as project bonds to the fiscal discipline treaty agreed by European Union leaders in February.

His challenge to austerity resonates across Europe after voters in Greece punished on the 6 May elections the mainstream parties for their acceptance of tough austerity measures in exchange for a bailout. 

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