The financial and economic storm hit the EU flotilla of economies hard. Public deficits ballooned to unsustainable levels and the debt levels of already indebted nations continues to rise alarmingly.
Generally, a firm but gradual correction towards fiscal prudence seems called for, even if some member states have been forced to take or prepare more sudden budget cuts to stave off disaster.
At least we can say that there is activity on several fronts.
The rescue package for Greece and the new stability instruments for the EU and the eurozone have been agreed.
Improved macro level surveillance has been proposed by the Commission, and the task force chaired by Herman Van Rompuy is preparing improved economic governance.
Better regulation and supervision of financial institutions is in the pipeline.
However, mere budget slashing does not create the wealth of nations, or the European Union. Growth and jobs are needed, and here the EU has an opportunity to show leadership.
The Europe 2020 strategy for jobs and growth is about to be approved. Hopefully the lost decade of the Lisbon strategy and the current challenges finally get the member states’ governments moving.
When they draft and implement their National Reform Programmes (NRPs), there is a lot of EU level material (much of it little known) they can draw inspiration from. Among these are the reports by the Reflection Group and by Mario Monti.
We have presented some aspects of these important reports in the blog entries EU Reflection Group delivered report: Project Europe 2030 (10 May 2010) and European Council and Project Europe 2030: Challenges and opportunities (14 June 2010), as well as Mario Monti: A new strategy for the single market (11 May 2010).
It is time for the European Council to put Europe on the track towards smart and sustainable growth.
At the same time, the EU institutions need to communicate the actions planned and taken in a more comprehensive manner, from clear overviews to detailed decisions.