Dis­cussing to­mor­row’s Europe

The Malta Business Weekly - - FRONT PAGE -

Meusac is cur­rently or­gan­is­ing a string of events on the fu­ture of Europe as part of its re-launch as a govern­ment agency. Over the years, Meusac has played a vi­tal role to en­gage cit­i­zens and civil so­ci­ety on EU-re­lated mat­ters and has also been tasked to con­tinue to push for­ward the de­bate on the fu­ture of Europe.

As Meusac head Vanni Xuereb put it, “Meusac will con­tinue to en­sure that cit­i­zens and civil so­ci­ety are en­gaged in a healthy de­bate on the fu­ture of the EU so that the Union con­tin­ues to at­tract wide­spread sup­port in Malta”. The lat­est Euro­pean Par­lia­ment sur­vey, also known as Par­lame­ter, once again con­firmed high lev­els of sup­port for the EU in Malta.

In March of this year, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion pub­lished a White Pa­per set­ting out pos­si­ble paths for the fu­ture of Europe fol­low­ing Brexit. It of­fered five sce­nar­ios to how the Union could evolve with the aim of start­ing off a Euro­pean-wide process of re­flec­tion and dis­cus­sion on the fu­ture of Europe. The White Pa­per was fol­lowed by the pub­li­ca­tion of a se­ries of re­flec­tion pa­pers on the so­cial di­men­sion of Europe, har­ness­ing glob­al­i­sa­tion, deep­en­ing the eco­nomic and mon­e­tary union , Euro­pean de­fence and EU fi­nances re­spec­tively, which would pave the way for a bet­ter fu­ture.

The events are fo­cus­ing on har­ness­ing glob­al­i­sa­tion, the so­cial di­men­sion of Europe and EU fi­nances. The next event is tak­ing place to­day and the last on 13 Novem­ber. The re­flec­tion pa­per on deep­en­ing the EMU was dis­cussed dur­ing a Meusac Core Group meet­ing held in Septem­ber. On 1 Novem­ber a sem­i­nar was or­gan­ised on the re­flec­tion pa­per on har­ness­ing glob­al­i­sa­tion.

Euro­peans fund an EU bud­get for less than the price of a cof­fee

Of in­ter­est is the fact that for less than the price of a cup of cof­fee a day, Euro­peans fund an EU bud­get that man­ages a wide range of is­sues that go be­yond na­tional bor­ders and ne­ces­si­tate a Euro­pean or in­ter­na­tional re­sponse. From cli­mate and en­ergy, to mi­gra­tion, con­sumer pro­tec­tion, glob­al­i­sa­tion, em­ploy­ment, the sin­gle mar­ket and the com­mon cur­rency, the bud­get con­trib­utes to the pros­per­ity of EU cit­i­zens and the suc­cess of com­mon poli­cies. Ex­pe­ri­ence has shown that even a mod­est bud­get at Euro­pean level can have a ma­jor im­pact on the ground.

Many Euro­peans have first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence of projects funded by the EU. Stu­dents and young pro­fes­sion­als study abroad thanks to the Eras­mus+ pro­gramme, farm­ers re­ceive sup­port from the Com­mon Agri­cul­tural Pol­icy and re­searchers and uni­ver­si­ties ben­e­fit from EU grants to fur­ther their work. Thanks to in­vest­ment un­der the Co­he­sion Pol­icy and other in­stru­ments, the EU helps coun­tries, re­gions and cities to im­prove the qual­ity of life of their cit­i­zens. It in­vests in pub­lic trans­port, wa­ter or dig­i­tal in­fra­struc­ture, as well as in the health and ed­u­ca­tion sec­tors. It sup­ports vo­ca­tional train­ing, smal­land medium-sized en­ter­prises and in­no­va­tion.

Fund­ing more with less

At the same time, a va­ri­ety of new chal­lenges have arisen since the cur­rent bud­get was de­signed. The refugee cri­sis, se­cu­rity con­cerns, cy­ber threats and ter­ror­ism as well as de­fence re­quire pan- Euro­pean re­sponses. The pres­sure cre­ated by these com­pet­ing de­mands on fi­nite re­sources has un­der­scored the ur­gent need to re­flect on what kind of bud­get is needed for the Europe of the fu­ture.

The with­drawal of the United King­dom will sig­nify the loss of an im­por­tant part­ner and con­trib­u­tor to the fi­nanc­ing of EU poli­cies and pro­grammes. How­ever, it also presents an op­por­tu­nity for a vi­tal dis­cus­sion about the moderni­sa­tion of the EU bud­get. At the heart of this de­bate are some fun­da­men­tal and in­ter­re­lated ques­tions.

What should the EU bud­get be used for? How can we make the very most of ev­ery euro to en­sure that EU spend­ing de­liv­ers tan­gi­ble re­sults for its cit­i­zens? What can spend­ing at EU level achieve that spend­ing at na­tional level can­not? How can poli­cies and pro­grammes be made sim­pler and more trans­par­ent? And now is also the time to ask how the EU bud­get should be fi­nanced to en­sure it has the re­sources it needs to meet the ex­pec­ta­tions of Euro­peans.

Eco­nomic strength, sus­tain­abil­ity, sol­i­dar­ity and se­cu­rity must be the fo­cal points for the EU fi­nances of the fu­ture. And while we know that the EU bud­get can­not do ev­ery­thing on its own, a wellde­signed bud­get fo­cused squarely on sup­port­ing those pri­or­i­ties can make a real dif­fer­ence to peo­ple’s lives and help re­store trust in the EU’s added value.

About the Re­flec­tion Pa­pers

• The re­flec­tion pa­per on the so­cial di­men­sion of Europe raises ques­tions on how to sus­tain our stan­dards of liv­ing, cre­ate more and bet­ter jobs, equip peo­ple with the right skills and cre­ate more unity within our so­ci­ety, in light of to­mor­row's so­ci­ety and world of work. It does so by set­ting out three pos­si­ble op­tions: Lim­it­ing the so­cial di­men­sion to free move­ment; those who want to do more in the so­cial field do more; the EU mem­ber states deepen the so­cial di­men­sion of Europe to­gether. • The re­flec­tion pa­per on glob­al­i­sa­tion opens up a de­bate on how the EU can best har­ness glob­al­i­sa­tion and re­spond to its op­por­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges, both on the ex­ter­nal and do­mes­tic fronts. • The op­tions pro­posed in the re­flec­tion pa­per on the deep­en­ing of EMU are in­tended to help build a broad con­sen­sus on how to take on the chal­lenges ahead and to give fresh im­pe­tus to this im­por­tant de­bate. Mov­ing ahead would mean tak­ing steps in the fol­low­ing three ar­eas: Com­plet­ing a gen­uine Fi­nan­cial Union; achiev­ing a more in­te­grated Eco­nomic and Fis­cal Union; an­chor­ing demo­cratic ac­count­abil­ity and strength­en­ing euro area in­sti­tu­tions. • As for the re­flec­tion pa­per on the fu­ture of EU fi­nances, the main chal­lenge is that the EU bud­get faces a tough chal­lenge to fund more with less. The EU is ex­pected to play a big­ger role in new pol­icy ar­eas like mi­gra­tion, in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal se­cu­rity or de­fence. More­over, Europe should also pre­serve its lead­ing role on the global stage as a ma­jor hu­man­i­tar­ian and de­vel­op­ment aid donor and as a leader of the fight against cli­mate change. That must be achieved with an EU bud­get that will only get smaller fol­low­ing Brexit. Worth not­ing is the fact that the Com­mis­sion pub­lished its sev­enth Co­he­sion re­port which takes the pulse of EU re­gions, draw­ing lessons from co­he­sion spend­ing dur­ing the cri­sis years and set­ting the scene for Co­he­sion Pol­icy af­ter 2020. Re­gions within EU mem­ber states are far­ing well eco­nom­i­cally but there is still room for im­prove­ment. One of the high­lights of the re­port was that the cur­rent level of in­vest­ment is in­suf­fi­cient to reach the 2030 tar­gets of shares of re­new­able en­ergy and re­duced green­house gas emis­sions. All EU re­gions will there­fore need more fund­ing to achieve de­car­bon­i­sa­tion. • The re­flec­tion pa­per on Euro­pean de­fence speaks about three sce­nar­ios. Firstly, a sce­nario where EU coun­tries would still de­cide on the need for se­cu­rity and de­fence co­op­er­a­tion on a vol­un­tary and case-by-case ba­sis, the sec­ond see­ing that the EU and NATO would in­crease mu­tual co­op­er­a­tion and closer Euro­pean de­fence in­te­gra­tion, also re­quir­ing a har­mon­i­sa­tion of Euro­pean armed forces.

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