The cost of non-Europe

16-10-2012 — / — On 18 September 2012, the EESC adopted an opinion on the cost of non-Europe, an issue which has resurfaced on the European agenda not only because it is important in mapping a way out of the financial crisis, but also because it is crucial to the success of the Europe 2020 strategy and the next Multiannual Financial Framework. It is a useful perspective from which to take forward the debate on pursuing European integration at a time of rising anti-European sentiment among citizens, growing populism and extremism.

The idea of the cost of non-Europe is not new; in 1988, Paolo Cecchini drew up a study for the European Commission on the cost of non-Europe in relation to the single market, which played a decisive role in the implementation of economic and monetary union.  In its opinion Towards an updated study of the cost of non-Europe, the EESC is now proposing that Mr Cecchini’s study be revamped to reflect current circumstances: the cost of incomplete integration in the context of the economic crisis.

“Contrary to the populist ideas being voiced in certain political quarters in a number of EU countries, current economic problems are not related to excesses in Brussels, but to the fact that European integration is fundamentally incomplete,” said George Dassis, rapporteur for the opinion and president of the EESC Workers Group.

The Member States – under pressure from the financial markets and from new binding institutional rules – seem to be heading for a period of austerity that jeopardises the growth demanded by the financial markets. Faced with this downward spiral, which is reducing people to poverty and destitution, the EESC calls for decisive steps to pool expenditure at European level, thus creating a virtuous circle of growth. This can only be achieved if the necessary political will is in place to take those decisive steps. The EESC emphasises the cost of taking the wrong path: the cost of non-Europe. Henri Malosse, president of the Employers Group, made an unambiguous statement on this point: “Come on decision-makers, it is time to act. Harness the huge potential of Europe’s 500 million citizens. You have no right to let them down!”

With all these factors in mind, a much broader analysis of the cost of non-Europe is needed than was proposed in the Commission’s study on The cost of non-Europe: the untapped potential of the European single market. The EESC calls for a full accounting of the cost of non-Europe and the impact on employment and growth, and for the Europe 2020 strategy to include objectives for reducing this cost, accompanied by a clear action plan and a systematic evaluation of its progress. The results of a comprehensive study will be the strongest argument against eurosceptics and the doubts about the EU referred to by Luca Jahier, co-rapporteur for the opinion and president of the Various Interests Group: “In spite of some outstanding successes and a world-wide profile, the European Union continues to harbour doubts about itself and to cause others to doubt it.”

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