Tuomas Saarenheimo & Juha Jokela
Fri 14.11.2014 at 10:00-12:00
Aleksanterikatu 44 A, 2nd floor, Helsinki
The debate about European economic governance has intensified in the aftermath of the European Parliament elections. Matteo Renziís centre-left government and FranÁois Hollandeís Socialists push for more fiscal flexibility in the EU, whereas Angela Merkel remains an adamant defender of austerity and structural reforms. How will the current policy debates influence the direction of European economic governance at the beginning of the EUís new institutional cycle? What kind of solutions can be expected to the economic problems currently faced by the EU and the eurozone? Are there new alliances and cleavages emerging within the eurozone?
Teija Tiilikainen, Director, the Finnish Institute of International Affairs
Olli Rehn is the Vice-President of the European Parliament. Rehn received his doctoral degree from the University of Oxford. He has also been in charge of the Centre for European Studies at the University of Helsinki and was an advisor to the Finnish prime minister. From 2004, Rehn served as European Commissioner for Enlargement before being named Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs in 2010 and Vice-President of the European Commission in 2011.
Paweł Tokarski is a Research Associate at Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) and the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM). He received his doctoral degree in economics at the Warsaw School of Economics in 2013. His research interests and areas of expertise include stabilization and reform processes in the eurozone, and the economic, political and social situations in Southern eurozone countries.
Tuomas Saarenheimo is the Permanent Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Finance of Finland. He has previously worked as Head of the Monetary Policy and Research Unit of the Bank of Finland, and as a member of the Board of Governors of the IMF. Saarenheimo has also worked as a national expert in the European Commission and as a visiting researcher at the National Bureau of Economic Research in the US.
Juha Jokela, Programme Director, the Finnish Institute of International Affairs
Summary of the seminar:
President of the European Parliament Olli
Rehn began his presentation with some brief points on the current political
system in the European Union and especially the role of the Commission.
According to him, after the last elections the system of lead candidates seems
to be here to stay, raising expectations for the Commission to mirror the policy
lines of the Parliament. Rehn noted that it is still unclear what the new, more
clustered structure of the Commission signifies, and what the roles of the
vice-presidents in it will be.
the European economy, Rehn stated that for the recovery to continue, wise
decisions are needed. The overall fiscal stance in the eurozone is broadly
neutral, and financial market conditions continue to ease. However, low
inflation is persisting, and if this trend continues, changes for the recovery
of eurozoneís balance are weakening.
according to Rehn, EU-specific factors that are holding growth back, namely
well-known, deep-seated structural problems, public and private debt overhangs
and ongoing financial fragmentation. No single, simple answers exist for these
problems, and Europe needs a combination of structural reforms, fiscal
credibility and investment boost. For achieving this, an agenda for jobs and
growth is needed. Rehn argued that what Europe needs is a genuine common
European solution for the situation instead of narrow national ones.
Paweł Tokarski said in his presentation that the
greatest challenges for European economies are in fact on a national level, and
thus might be beyond European economic governance to solve. While reforms of the
EU are widely demanded as a result of the rise of populism in European
politics, Tokarski pointed out that in particular many of the structural
problems need to be solved are on the national level. Tokarski painted a rather
grim picture of the economic problems of France and Italy, as well as the
political prospects for pushing through needed reforms. He added that reforms
of economic structures sometimes require reforms of political systems before
they are possible. The next five years
will be, according to Tokarski, a test for the European Unionís fiscal course.
Perspectives for significant reforms do not look particularly good, however, and
any great revolutions regarding the Eurozone should not be expected in the
current political cycle.
beginning of his comment, Tuomas
Saarenheimo reminded that the reasons for monetary crises of the eurozone
have commonly been diagnosed as policy mistakes made by EU member states, and
thus it has been concluded that the solution should be to prevent them from
making these mistakes again. Saarenheimo himself was skeptical about member
states deliberately making bad policy decisions, and more importantly about the
EUís capability to direct the states away from making them. The main reason for
this is to be found from the relatively weak legal basis regarding the Commissionís
to Saarenheimo, this lack of legitimacy and power lead the Commission and the EU
to using soft power in order to direct policies of the member states. This
leaves the Union with three options: either to accept these limitations and to
provide the EU with more power to implement the needed decisions, which is
unlikely to happen, or to try to increase legitimacy of the Union so that it
becomes capable of using power legitimately, which would be a very long and