Barroso 'not happy with progress' on growth
by Daniel Mason
Not enough has been done by national governments to boost growth, European Commission President JosÚ Manuel Barroso said today, as he urged them to instil an "additional sense of urgency" into the implementation of decisions taken earlier in the year to tackle the bloc's ailing economy and high unemployment.
Speaking in Brussels at a meeting with social partners ahead of a summit of European Union leaders, Barroso said he was "not happy with the progress made so far" in enacting a growth and jobs compact agreed in June.
"I call on the European Council to accelerate the adoption and implementation of many important growth-enhancing measures included in the growth and jobs compact," he said. "It is true that we have been making more efforts in terms of fiscal consolidation than on measures for growth that were already agreed."
Barroso added: "We need to balance the important efforts made in terms of sound public finances with the right measures to have growth enhancing policies." He said implementation was "key" and an "additional sense of urgency" required. "This will require increased efforts from member states to take decisive and immediate action."
As well as criticising national governments' slow action on growth, he said it was "unfortunate" that there was "little willingness" among some member states to back the commission's proposals for increased spending in the EU's 2014-2020 budget, which he claimed would "offset the negative social impact of the crisis".
Barroso said: "Let me also address a message to those in Europe that are hit hardest by the current crisis. We are perfectly aware of the very difficult situation in which many of our fellow citizens face themselves. And I want to say to all those who are experiencing hardship from the current crisis that the commission is making every effort, together with our member states and social partners, to move Europe back on the path to growth and jobs.
"We are working to provide them with hope and perspective. The Europe that has been awarded – and deserved – the Nobel Peace Prize must tackle the social consequences of this crisis with ambition and determination."
At the same press conference, Herman Van Rompuy, president of the council, also highlighted a "lack of growth and increasing unemployment". "Creating jobs and boosting inclusive growth remains our utmost priority, our ultimate goal," he said, adding: "I insist on making quick progress on these actions."
He said more had to be done on measures including completing the single market, achieving the digital single market by 2015, promoting research and development, improving competitiveness, implementing the Europe 2020 strategy and harnessing international trade.
But despite all the talks of growth and jobs, as EU leaders arrived in Brussels the summit looked set to be dominated by discussions over the longer-term integration of the eurozone, including disagreements between France and Germany on the timetable for introducing a single banking supervisor, and a German proposal for the creation of a new European economics commissioner with the power to intervene in national budgets.
The discussions will be based on an ideas paper by Van Rompuy, which set out suggestions including a separate eurozone budget and treasury, and a debt redemption fund.
Meanwhile there are not expected to be any major decisions on Greece, even as workers there stage another 24-hour general strike in protest against austerity measures, or on Spain, which is yet to decide on whether to request further financial assistance from the eurozone's new bail-out fund, the European Stability Mechanism.