Controversial expert report upsets several Commissioners

A high-level expert group delivered a study on
17 July proposing the re-nationalisation of the CAP and
regional funding, while introducing more flexibility into the
EU’s budgetary policy.

The mandate of the group was to analyse the progress
of two strategic goals of the EU: the Lisbon process of
making the EU the most dynamic economy in the world by
2010, and EU enlargement. 

The expert group reviewed the EU’s economic policy
and concluded that since the mid-1970s, the growth rate
has been generally low, which is, in the Group’s
view, due to the EU’s failure to base its economic
system on innovation.

The report concludes that growth should be made the
first priority as the lack of it could risk further
European integration. A number of reforms are needed, in
which the EU needs to increasingly take the role of a
facilitator. The expert group therefore recommends a
six-point agenda, which would focus on micro and
macro-level policies, governance and budget:

  • make the Single Market more dynamic;
  • boost investment in knowledge;
  • improve the macroeconomic policy framework for
    EMU;
  • redesign policies for convergence and
    restructuring;
  • achieve effectiveness in decision-taking and
    regulation;
  • refocus the EU budget.

The Group explains that their
recommendations cover only EU policies, while national
policy reforms should go hand-in-hand, particularly in
the areas of social affairs, public investment and
taxation, to ensure higher sustained growth in the EU.
The environmental dimension is not in the scope of the
Group’s recommendation.

Commissioner for Regional Policy Michel
Barnier

was irritated by the report's calling into question
of cohesion policy and its proposals to re-nationalise
this policy. The report's conclusions "have not
taken account of reality", said Mr Barnier.
Coinciding with the launch of the study of the High-level
group on economic governance, the Commission published a
new evaluation study demonstrating the contribution of
the Structural Funds to higher growth, new jobs and
sustainable development in the least developed
regions. 

Commissioner for Agriculture Franz
Fischler

was also against the idea of re-nationalising the CAP,
which, in his opinion, would lead to the creation of 25
different subsidy systems.

Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs
Pedro Solbes

reacted that the macroeconomic recommendations on
bringing more flexibility to the Stability and Growth
Pact were largely in line with the Commission's
Communication of November 2002 (see also 
EURACTIV 28 November
2002

). 

Commission President Romano Prodi

reportedly declined to comment saying that it was a
contribution to the Commission and that he could not make
his opinion known on the report.

On 17 July, André Sapir, a Professor of Economics
at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, presented the
findings of a report commissioned by Commission President
Romano Prodi on 18 July 2002. Seven economists and a
political scientist worked on the compilation of the
study.

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