Les ambassadeurs de l’UE espèrent une annus mirabilis pour 2012

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Cet article fait partie de l'édition spéciale Budget UE 2014-2020.

 
Si 2011 fut une annus horribilis, les ambassadeurs de l’UE espèrent que les actions à venir rétabliront la confiance dans l'Union des Vingt-sept, enrayeront la crise de la dette souveraine qui gangrène l’Union et feront de 2012 une annus mirabilis.

Les représentants officiels se sont confiés à Daniela Vincenti, directrice de la rédaction chez EurActiv.

Does the new treaty really put an end to the crisis? What happens if it is not ratified by all 26 countries – a multi-speed Europe – and how many speeds?

Ferdinando Nelli Feroci, permanent representative of Italy to the EU:

There is no doubt that 2012 will be a crucial year for Europe to deliver a credible and sustainable solution to the sovereign debt crisis, which represents a major threat to the stability and integrity of the Economic and Monetary Union.

At the national level, Italy – being well aware of its role as one of the largest economies in Europe and, at the same time, one of the euro area members hardest hit by the sovereign debt crisis – is implementing an ambitious strategy to speed up fiscal consolidation and sustain growth.

A set of measures – including a far-reaching pension reform scheme – has already been adopted by the government and approved by the Parliament with broad support, with the aim of attaining the “zero deficit” target by year 2013 and granting long-term sustainability of our public finances. The enshrinement of the balanced budget rule in our Constitution is also well under way.

A second package of initiatives is being agreed upon in these very days to boost economic growth and job creation, mainly through liberalisations and structural reforms in key areas, including labour markets.

At the European level, in 2011 we have participated in the adoption of important legislation, within the current Treaty framework, to enhance economic coordination among member States and enhance the role of EU Institutions to foster budgetary discipline.

Now, on the basis of the commitments undertaken in the EU Summit of last December 9th, Italy is also actively and constructively participating in the ongoing negotiations on the new international agreement on a “reinforced economic union”.

All the efforts being undertaken at national level and at the European level, however, might fall short of their intended effects without a global response to the crisis and to its underlying roots: this is why we think that the agreement on a “reinforced economic union” should be ambitious and effective not only in strengthening discipline, but also in promoting conditions for stronger economic growth in the euro area and beyond.

In parallel, given the present circumstances on financial markets, serious and credible signals should be given to the markets and to our public opinion: the stabilisation tools which have already been designed, such as the ESM, should be activated as soon as possible, and their firepower maximised in order to discourage further speculative attacks.

Finally, we strongly believe that the process leading to the new agreement should be inclusive, reaching out to all member states of the Union, and respectful of the integrity of the EU institutional framework. The prospect of a “multi-speed Europe” represents, in our view, a scenario that should be avoided.

Jan Store, permanent representative of Finland to the EU:

At the European Summit of 9th December, Finland was looking for a solution of all 27 EU member states and was ready to go forward with necessary treaty changes. However, as it became evident that this was not possible, we have been supporting the option to have an international agreement between the euro area members and to have all other interested EU members on board.

The most important issues to be included in the future agreement are the need to improve the budget discipline and to have better monitoring and surveillance of commonly agreed decisions. Finland would like to see the agreement incorporated as soon as possible into the Treaties of European Union.

Finland sees that the new international agreement is an important part of our toolkit in order to respond to the current economic crisis. All these different measures together will make us stronger and also better prepared for the future. There are good possibilities of having non-euro countries joining the agreement.  

Manuel Lobo Antunes, permanent representative of Portugal to the EU:

The new intergovernmental treaty should be read as part of a work in progress that reflects the reality of the European project: sometimes politics and the economy don’t follow the same tempo. Indeed, the issue of ratification is important and should not be underestimated. We should in this respect take some lessons from past experiences.

The whole process needs to cater for transparency, inclusiveness and the sense of ownership of all actors, not least national Parliaments. As ever, democratic legitimacy will be the key word. Irrespective of its ratification by the 26, it will eventually become “attractive” to all, so long as it remains open to all, and that it proves useful and effective. “Small” steps have grown “big” before, as the Schengen and Prüm experiences have shown. Either way, the EU will have to think creatively and act pragmatically for the good of all its member states.

Matti Maasikas, permanent representative of Estonia to the EU:

The new treaty further strengthens the commitment for fiscal responsibility in the EU and is thus clearly in the interest of all EU member states. We hope it will play its part in reassuring the various players, notably the financial markets, and in restoring the confidence in the euro. The treaty is another building block of the EU´s determination to do whatever it takes to ensure the stability of the common currency.

Every member state, each EU institution has its role and responsibilities in contributing to further stabilisation of the public finances of the whole EU. The ongoing drafting process, where all 27 member states, the European Commission, the European Parliament, the European Central Bank are participating, has therefore not much to do with theoretical discussions about Europe of various speeds.

Saying anything about future ratification at this point would clearly be just a speculation. 

Boyko Kotzev, permanent representative of Bulgaria to the EU:

This remains to be seen but I am confident that the proposed treaty is a step in the right direction.

There is a common understanding that the treaty shall be open to non-euro zone [coutnries] which are invited to participate on an equal footing in the negotiations. This is a very important element for countries like Bulgaria that are expected to join the eurozone in the future. We would like to develop this element further in the text of the agreement and to have our active observer seat in the informal euro summit meetings.

I am confident that there will be soon an agreement among the 26 member states on the modalities of the text. It is our vision to incorporate the provisions of the treaty as soon as possible into the treaties on which the EU is founded. Normally it will take some time to work on the details within the agreed timetable.

Multispeed Europe is not an option for us and not the right way to go forward. We have to trust the European Union institutions and invest in common solutions to the common problems.  

Ilze Juhansone, permanent representative of Latvia to the EU:

No treaty by itself can put an end to a crisis. If the provisions of the EU legislation currently in force had been implemented and adhered to properly, then there would have been no need for additional legislation or stricter agreements.

The new treaty requires from the EU member states to put in place a binding and rigorous fiscal discipline regime, in order to avoid spending more money than they have. At this moment the draft treaty is reflecting in legal terms the political commitments given by EU leaders at the December 9 European Council. Will these promises become a reality – this will be the most important question once the treaty enters into force.

As regards to a multispeed Europe – I remain optimistic that all member states will stay faithful to their political commitments and ratify the treaty, thus avoiding a multispeed Europe. I think it is in all of our interests to have one united Europe.

Richard Cachia Caruana, permanent representative of Malta to the EU:

With regard to the draft international Agreement on a Reinforced Economic Union, it is important to emphasise that this is not an amendment to the Lisbon Treaty, but is rather an intergovernmental agreement aimed at strengthening market confidence. Malta believes that the highest priority should be given to the implementation of measures which have already been agreed to at head of state or government level.

Only through the implementation of what has already been agreed will the EU succeed in showing leadership and re-building market confidence. In this regard, during the negotiations of the international agreement, Malta will insist that the agreement of the heads of state or government of 9 December 2011 is not re-opened and that therefore the text of the international agreement should be as close as possible to the decisions of 9 December.

Malta believes that it is important that there is a consensus amongst all contracting parties so as to make the agreement as effective as possible and restore the confidence of the financial markets in the eurozone.

Raimundas Karoblis, permanent representative of Lithuania to the EU:

Unfortunately, the new treaty will not put an end to the crisis. It is about the middle- and long-term perspective, about the ways how member states, in particular, of the eurozone, will implement their commitments, which were ignored by many of them. We surely need that for Europe, for all its member states, and we need to reassure the markets.

But it is also clear that the EU will need new, concrete and immediate measures to cope with the crisis in the short term and to help its most troubled members.

At the same time we need to avoid further divisions between the member states and, preferably, we need to seek that not 26 but all 27 member states would sign the treaty, which would then be incorporated into the European treaty. We need a treaty attractive to all member states. We need in it the elements that would help to unify, not divide, the eurozone and the non-eurozone members. Finally, we need a treaty that would largely preserve the Community approach.

Multi-annual financial perspectives 2014-2020 (MFF):  Considering your country's stance, what will it take to deliver on negotiations?

Ferdinando Nelli Feroci, permanent representative of Italy to the EU:

This year, also, the negotiations on the next Multiannual Financial Framework will enter into a decisive phase.

Italy – as one of the largest contributors to the EU, with a net contribution of around €5 billion per year- supports an ambitious budget for the EU, coherent with the perspective of a more integrated and efficient Union.

On the other hand, we consider that, in a time of crisis and fiscal pressure, the European budget must reflect the efforts being undertaken at national level to limit expenditures and, at the same time, ensure that every euro spent at EU level has the greatest added value in terms of jobs and growth.

We will therefore remain vigilant and constructively engaged so that the ongoing reform of crucial common policies, such as the Common Agricultural Policy and the Cohesion Policy, will abide by these fundamental principles.

Jan Store, permanent representative of Finland to the EU:

The negotiations will be a very delicate balancing act in many respects. For Finland, the next financial framework should reflect the difficult situation of public finances and strengthen preconditions for growth and employment. When the member states are consolidating their budgets, the EU budget cannot grow significantly.

On the expenditure side we need to seek a solution that takes fully into account the EU 2020 priorities and ensures a fair outcome for all. A key issue in cohesion policy for Finland is taking remote location into account and safeguarding the special status of sparsely populated areas of Northern and Eastern Finland. Another important element is maintaining a sustainable agriculture sector throughout Europe and safeguarding rural development funding. Furthermore, the Commission proposal to increase funds for R&D&I is positive.

On the revenue side, Finland is seeking a fair and transparent system without rebates that offers sufficient resources to reach the goals set for the EU budget.

Needless to say, we need constructive attitude and cooperation of all institutions and member states to take the difficult decisions in time. 

Manuel Lobo Antunes, permanent representative of Portugal to the EU:

The negotiations on the next MFF occur amid the worst economic crisis Europe has faced since the 1930s and therefore challenge some of the foundations of the European integration process.  Building an Europe fit for the 21st century, in an increasingly globalised  world, will take the political will to ensure that the EU has the necessary means to fulfil its task, ie, to promote economic growth, stability and prosperity across its member states.

This will also require a degree of vision of the EU-budget as an instrument crucial to the promotion of growth and competitiveness in the Union as a whole. While we cannot abstract from the efforts undertaken at national level to overcome the crisis, we must secure adequate financial resources at EU level or risk jeopardising the convergence path on which the MFF is supposed to keep us all. Without solidarity and economic and social cohesion, we will fail to achieve a Europe more competitive, both internally and in the international scene. But I am confident that our political leaders will rise to this challenge.

Boyko Kotzev, permanent representative of Bulgaria to the EU:

Bulgaria will be a constructive partner in the MFF negotiations. However, we are prepared for difficult negotiations under the present circumstances. We consider that the Commission proposal for the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 presented in the end of June 2011 is a good basis for negotiations both on expenditure and revenue side.

Bulgaria’s main priorities in the MFF negotiations are the Cohesion Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). We have serious concerns that the amounts foreseen for nuclear decommissioning in Bulgaria, Slovakia and Lithuania are highly insufficient to meet the real needs. The amounts should definitely be increased – which should not pose problems as we speak of really small sums compared to the overall size of the EU budget.

As regards the Cohesion Policy we should not forget that its main goal is to narrow differences in the development of the European regions. Therefore it is crucial that a sufficient level of funding is guaranteed for cohesion for the next programming period maintaining at least the current level of the financial resources with a targeted support for the least developed regions.

Bulgaria has already had the possibility on several occasions to express its concerns on the proposed 2.5% capping of national allocations for Cohesion Policy instruments. Such a step would lead to a sufficient reduction of the allocations for the least developed regions.

As regards the CAP, we argue for a more ambitious scheme for the convergence of direct payments to allow for full equality of treatment. The allocation of financial resources between member states must be fair and based on objective criteria, instead of on historical approach.  We would also like to see more flexibility on the proposed modalities of the “greening” of the direct payments. It is important to maximise the ecological benefits  without endangering the competitiveness of the sector when introducing a green direct payment.

Matti Maasikas, permanent representative of Estonia to the European Union:

The main aim of the next multi-annual financial perspective should be enhancing the overall competitiveness of the EU. It will best be achieved by supporting the forward-looking policy initiatives set in the Europe 2020 strategy.

No doubt the negotiations will be difficult. At the time when the keywords are austerity and budgetary consolidation, it is hard to argue for an increase or even for maintaining the current level of the EU allocations. Nevertheless, the EU budget is mainly a budget of investments and a balance must be found between the current financial restraints and the investment needs for the EU policies. The balance should be achieved by taking into account both the investment needs and absorption performance of each individual member state. For Estonia, we see this balance as a two-way EU solidarity.

Ilze Juhansone, permanent representative of Latvia to the EU:

It is obvious that bringing forward the EU multi-annual budget file will be a very challenging task, especially bearing in mind current economic and financial reality in Europe. However we are sure that we are in good hands with the Danish presidency. Denmark has great experience in bringing forward the European agenda, as this will be its 7th time in the chair of presidency. Therefore we trust that the next stage of MFF negotiations will be conducted in ways, which ensure that everybody's voice is heard. While adhering to a pragmatic stand, we still perceive the Commission's proposal on the future EU multi-annual budget as unreasonably unfair towards Latvia. In a certain way we feel punished for being fiscally disciplined and determined to implement structural reforms. We will continue to sustain our deep concerns regarding several elements of the Commission's proposal, namely the proposed capping of Cohesion Policy funding and distribution of direct payments in the Common Agriculture Policy. We still believe that the current proposal is insufficient for achieving Europe 2020 Strategy goals in all member states.

Richard Cachia Caruana, permanent representative of Malta to the EU:

The negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework should result in an agreement that ensures a fair budgetary net position for all member states. This includes ensuring a focus on EU expenditure, such as Cohesion Policy funds, that can boost development in priority areas which are critical for ensuring economic growth and boosting competitiveness. The objective is to achieve an EU Budget that is more balanced, transparent and predictable

Raimundas Karoblis, permanent representative of Lithuania to the EU:

It is a natural priority for the current presidency trio, but also for all the other member states. We welcome the approach that the negotiations should be finalised this year but it will not be easy. Probably they will be much more difficult than previously given the present economic situation, widely adopted austerity measures and the new institutional setting of the EU. We would want to see other member states to look beyond austerity to the long- and medium-term needs of the EU, having in mind that the EU budget is tiny compared with the European GDP.

Lithuania expects that the European Union will find how to keep implementing its commitments such as the financial support for the decommissioning of the nuclear power stations, written into the accession treaties with several member states. We also do not want to see the allocation rules to discriminate as envisaged by the present proposals. On cohesion, the allocations would now be reduced for the four catching-up members, while on agriculture, continuing with the different levels of direct payments would distort competition.

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