Wirtschaftskrise, Wachstum und Beschäftigung 15. Februar 2012
Mr President, I should like to welcome the Prime Minister to this Parliament, not only on behalf of the colleghi democratici but also on behalf of all the Social Democratic Group. It is good to have you here, Prime Minister. By a slip of the tongue you said that you had been elected by the European Parliament. Well, that is not yet true, but we would have elected you after the speech you gave today; so come back to the European scene when you finish your prime ministership, so that we can have a strong European in our Parliament.
Prime Minister, expectations are very high, not only in Italy but also in Europe. Not with those people over there, but with the public in general. You spoke about growth, and the necessity of combining growth with fiscal discipline. I would go one step further and say that, perhaps, fiscal discipline can be achieved more easily if we have growth and employment. Prime Minister, we have had many declarations, including those made by Italy and other countries, but the actions are still missing.
I need only quote, for example, from the Final Declaration of the Cannes Summit, where President Sarkozy was so proud to hold the G20 meeting. One sentence of that declaration reads: ‘We firmly believe that employment must be at the heart of the actions and policies to restore growth and confidence that we undertake under the Framework for strong, sustainable and balanced growth’. A good declaration, but where is the action? The action is still missing.
You spoke about some instruments such as stability bonds. We are still discussing growth policies, but we do not have enough action. Secondly, for us – as you know, Prime Minister – a social Europe is something concrete. Here again, to quote from the declaration of the Cannes Summit of the G20: ‘We recognize the importance of investing in nationally determined social protection floors in each of our countries … We are convinced of the essential role of social dialogue.’
This morning we discussed how the social dialogue has been destroyed, for example in Greece; how the Troika says there must be no social dialogue, no social partners, just legislation – and we can return to democracy later. For us, growth, employment and social policies have to go hand in hand.
My next point relates to tax. For a social Europe the tax system must also be social and fair, and we have to fight against tax evasion. Again, the G20 said: ‘We are committed to protect our public finances and the global financial system from the risks posed by tax havens and non-cooperative jurisdictions’. Yet there has been no reaction, not a single action against tax havens; not a single action to deal with non-cooperative jurisdictions. What should Greek citizens think when the money of the rich is going to Switzerland and other countries, untaxed, and they have to pay tax on their reduced salaries? This is an impossible situation.
You also know, Prime Minister, that the Financial Transaction Tax is very important for us. It is often said that, well, we have to fear tax evasion. A study by our Group showed that, if the financial tax is applied right, tax evasion need not be a very big problem. We accept tax evasion involving the Bahamas, Switzerland and many other countries, but in the case of the Financial Transaction Tax, all of a sudden we are very restrictive. So this is another point which our Group regards as very important.
I agree with you and, as I said, I would even go a step further. In a growing Europe, in a Europe with more jobs and fewer unemployed people, in a social and fair Europe with a fair tax system, fiscal consolidation is much easier to achieve and can be accepted by the citizens.
My next point is to stress that we also have European institutions, such as the European Central Bank and the European Investment Bank, that can contribute to your – and our – concept of growth and development. Concerning the European Investment Bank, why not give it more credit possibilities, especially for the benefit of small and medium-sized industries? The European Investment Bank can also help to generate growth. As for the European Central Bank, another Italian – Mr Draghi, whom I met on Monday – is doing a good job there. I would like you to follow and support your colleague in the European Central Bank, so as to do the utmost to promote growth and create enough liquidity in Europe for growth generation.
I think with these two Italians, Draghi and Monti, Europe looks different, and I hope that this can be a success story for Europe now. Someone has just said ‘Super Mario’: we shall see. Let us hope for the ‘Super’.
My last point, Mr Prime Minister, is about a democratic Europe. You are absolutely right: democracy and integration are no contradiction. But democracy for us is not the Council as such, because some Members of the Council are trying to regain their power. Many citizens ask: ‘I thought Parliament emerged as the winner under the Lisbon Treaty, now what has happened to the role of the Parliament?’ I know that the Lisbon Treaty was not the favourite treaty of members of governments and prime ministers, but I hope that, with your conception of democracy, you will support Parliament’s request to be part of that democratic game. I hope it will not be as it was with the fiscal treaty, and that we will not have to force our way into the debate and the discussions in order to achieve some small changes. We should be involved in the discussion from the beginning.
The question of democracy does not only relate to the Commission. We discussed this morning how some of the Troika people go into countries like locusts, aggravating rather than improving the situation, as in Greece. The approach in Italy is quite different because it involves both fiscal responsibility and growth, and not only fiscal discipline and fiscal stability.
We have high hopes for you and so finally, Prime Minister, we are very happy that you are here. You are working for a strong Italy and a strong Europe, and that is also our wish. We need Italy, as a founding member of this European Union, to be strong, democratic and economically safe and sound, and to have full employment and social policies. That is your task: you will fulfil it, we are sure, with our support.