MEP: ‘We need to reform global governance’

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A special European Parliament committee set up to advise the EU on the road to economic recovery should have different priorities to those of the European institutions, its rapporteur insists. The committee needs a long-term view to tackle global imbalances, unemployment and the EU’s role in global governance, French Socialist MEP Pervenche Berès told EURACTIV in an interview.

Pervenche Berès, who has been appointed rapporteur of the European Parliament’s special committee on the financial crisis, is also chair of the employment and social affairs committee. 

Berès was speaking to Claire Davenport.

To read a shortened version of this interview, please click here

What do you hope to achieve as rapporteur for the European Parliament’s special committee on the financial crisis? 

The main thing for me is that this special committee should not just be about the crisis but about what we are going to do beyond the crisis. First of all, I will be trying to establish common ground between all the members, because without this we cannot move forward. 

Committee chair Wolf Klinz has already come out as an advocate of light-touch regulation of financial markets (EURACTIV 16/10/09). What’s your approach and what kind of approach do you want the committee to take? 

We should not be closed-minded on which approach we advocate. Our priority should be not to imitate what other committees, the Council and the Commission are doing. The special committee’s added value is to look beyond the crisis and to find a bridge between our different approaches. This is why I insist on having a common ground. 

The priority for the committee is not regulating financial markets, but an investment strategy for job creation, which needs to be addressed immediately. 

Are you hopeful of hitting that common ground you are seeking? 

I think it is too early to say that, but there is great quality and diversity in the committee’s composition. 

Will you also be discussing current EU proposals to regulate financial markets? 

The Parliament currently is not discussing the proposal for a systemic risk board but it needs to discuss this. But I would prefer that the special committee looks ahead and has long-term vision. 

So what would be the long-term strategy for the committee? 

The long-term strategy of financial supervision should prioritise the EU’s role in governance such as the IMF. If we are serious about changing the reasons the crisis happened, i.e. global imbalances, we need to ensure the EU is represented. 

Also we need to return to the pre-crisis agenda of March 2007 and invest in a solution that will address Europe’s energy dependency, growing unemployment and ageing population at the same time. 

You mentioned the special committee has different priorities than the institutions. However, big banks still pose a huge systemic risk to the financial system and this seems to be an issue on many MEPs’ minds. Do you really think you can leave micro-financial supervision to the institutions

When I talked about different priorities I didn’t mean that micro-prudential issues were not important. But I believe that the work of the special committee should not interfere with legislative texts that are on the table of the EP’s regular committees. 

The committee should be looking at issues that haven’t been dealt with yet and be forward-looking. For legislators who are always working under huge time constraints, this is a great opportunity to take the time to think about the broader picture, about what needs to be learnt from the present crisis and where we want to go. 

Do you think the EU is underrepresented in global governance organisations such as the IMF? 

The EU is not represented as such in the IMF and this undermines its capacity to influence topics where its voice should be strong. The G20 gave much attention to the evolution of the Financial Stability Forum into the Financial Stability Board, which focuses its weight on central bankers. But my understanding is that we need to invest in reforming the governance of the IMF, which the member states of the EU are hesitant about. 

Why do you think the European members of the IMF are hesitant about reforming its governance structure? 

Mainly because it would mean that the individual rights of some member states would be reduced as well as the total weight of the European voice. But I strongly believe that this is the price to pay if you want the IMF to play the role it should be playing and if you want all relevant parties to be considered equally. This means that emerging and poor countries need to get a proper representation. Otherwise you will not be able to reshape organisations that were created after the Second World War and designed to address the problems of another, past world. 

Refusing to address this issue will lead to a proliferation of ad hoc committees with efficiency, legitimacy and democratic accountability issues. 

Given that the European centre-right is currently in the majority in the European Council, Commission and Parliament, will the European left struggle to have a significant legislative impact on the next five years of EU policy, particularly in the area of social policy? 

It’s true that it will be a challenge to be heard on this issue. We’ll need to be extremely good to convince people of our arguments, but I hope we’ll be helped by civil society. There will be huge discussions on issues such as how to reach full employment, and the question of purchasing power, and there is no doubt that there will be a political and ideological fight on these issues. However, I believe people will recognise that the centre-right says things but doesn’t do them. 

You are also the chair of the Parliament’s employment and social affairs committee. How will the work of that committee evolve should the Lisbon Treaty come into force? 

Article 9 of the Treaty, the so-called ‘horizontal social clause’, [which obliges the Union to take account, “in defining and implementing its policies and actions,” a range of “requirements”: promotion of a high level of employment, the guarantee of adequate social protection, the fight against social exclusion, and a high level of education, training and protection of human health] should help us to ensure that social and employment issues remain high on the EU agenda.

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