EURO AREA/ECONOMIC GOVERNANCE
I’ll begin with European economic governance. The European Council meeting will represent, first of all, a finalization of the global response to the Euro Area crisis. Attention today is generally focused on the Greek debt crisis, but we must appreciate what has been done in a year, thanks to good Franco-German understanding and the decisive role of the stable President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy – he’s here in Paris today – which confirms, as France has always maintained, the central role and solidity of the institution he leads. It’s now essential that the European Council approve all the elements of this global response.
We’re making every effort to ensure the Euro Group reaches an agreement to tackle the difficulties Greece is encountering. The troika made up of the International Monetary Fund, the Commission and the European Central Bank is working on a technical agreement with Athens with a view to releasing, at the beginning of July, the fifth, €12-billion instalment of the €110-billion support package decided upon in May 2010. The solution also depends on Greece. She has adopted a new budgetary strategy for the medium term: austerity measures,
additional restructuring and a speeding-up of privatizations, in order to raise €50 billion by 2015. This courageous and necessary plan must be adopted by the Greek parliament and implemented without delay. It can be accompanied, if necessary, by a new financing programme, the practicalities of which are still under negotiation among the Euro Area member states, the European institutions and the International Monetary Fund. In any case, any “default” of the Greek debt is being absolutely ruled out.
The European Council is also due to conclude the first cycle of the “European semester”, in the framework of the Stability and Growth Pact and the goals of the European Union’s Europe 2020 strategy. It will assess the commitments made by the member states in national reform programmes and stability and convergence programmes. It will endorse the specific recommendations made by the Commission and then debated and adopted by the Council.
During their discussions of the economic situation, the heads of state and government will reaffirm the importance of the commitments made under the “Euro-Plus Pact”. This initiative by Germany to strengthen the convergence of national economic policies must take full effect, particularly in terms of competitiveness policy and taxation. On the latter point, important proposals have been presented by the Commission regarding a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base plan and the taxation of energy. We also hope to develop dialogue between the European partners on harmful fiscal practices.
This European Council meeting will also see the signature of the intergovernmental treaty on the European Stability Mechanism, which is due to take over from the current European Financial Stability Facility in July 2013 and has an effective lending capacity of €500 billion. Thanks to this mechanism, and thanks to the revision of the Stability Facility Framework Agreement, which, among other things, will bring its effective lending capacity to €440 billion, the Euro Area will have the means to respond rapidly to any shocks its member states undergo.
Finally, we hope the European Council can confirm an agreement between the Council and the European Parliament on the whole legislative package on economic governance, which envisages a reinforcement of the preventive and corrective aspects of the Stability Pact, enhanced budgetary supervision and the establishment of a monitoring and prevention mechanism for excessive macro-economic imbalances between European Union member states.
The second major challenge for this European Council meeting is to strengthen the governance of the Schengen Area.
The free movement of people – I’m keen to restate it on behalf of the government – is one of the established key values of the European enterprise. But in the face of migratory pressure and the recent crises, we can see clearly that our current tools and resources are insufficient. In order to preserve our common area of free movement based on mutual trust, it’s essential today to allow the European Union to provide it with better management and concrete tools to achieve that, and to strengthen its ability to monitor and protect its external borders.
The President of the European Council and the Commission have responded constructively to the joint initiative of the Franco-Italian summit in Rome on 26 April. The Justice and Home Affairs Council laid the groundwork on 9 June by setting out guidelines on borders, migration and asylum and adopting a strategy on readmission.
On this basis, we’re expecting some clear precepts from the European Council.
First of all, better organized political leadership of the Schengen Area, with ministerial-level meetings of a Schengen Area “executive board” and of the Frontex agency’s management board.
Secondly, a stricter assessment of how the member states implement Schengen’s established rules. Beyond a technical assessment, the actual ability to manage the external borders on behalf of the other member states must be gauged. That’s the essential condition for the mutual trust that’s necessary for an area of free movement to work properly.
Third precept: better adapted safeguard clauses. The present opportunity to reintroduce internal border checks temporarily should be extended to make it possible, as a last resort, to take appropriate action in response to either a lasting and serious failure to manage a section of the external borders or an exceptional situation of illegal migratory pressure, as we’re currently experiencing. Let’s be clear: it’s not a question of limiting freedom of movement, but on the contrary of preserving the conditions for it to be exercised, learning lessons from the malfunctions currently seen in the Schengen Area.
Fourth precept: confirmation, in line with a timetable set by the European Council, of 2012 as the target for establishing a common European asylum system, on fairer foundations than the projects hitherto debated. It doesn’t strike me as acceptable to harmonize upwards the rights of asylum seekers within the European Union while maintaining the current heterogeneity in the rates of acceptance of asylum applications. Whereas France accepts 30% of the asylum requests she is presented with, I remind you this rate is close to 0% in several member states.
Fifth precept: the gradual establishment of a “European border system”. As well as the ongoing work to strengthen the Frontex agency, the Commission wants to look at the feasibility of a European system of border guards. In our view, this – to begin with – could be a body of inspectors promoting shared practice, expertise and procedures.
Finally, the sixth precept: the continuation of a balanced visa policy, allowing targeted visa facilitation and mobility partnerships, but with the introduction of a general safeguard clause for third countries where the European Union’s visa liberalization policy has resulted in obvious misuse of the system, abuses or sudden influxes.
EUROPEAN NEIGHBOURHOOD POLICY
The European Council’s third key challenge: the European Neighbourhood Policy.
The European Council will, of course, be talking about the crises in Libya, Syria and Yemen, as well as our efforts to get the Middle East peace process restarted. But the key challenge is also to lay down the guidelines for long-term action by the European Union vis-à-vis its Mediterranean neighbourhood. (…)
As far as we’re concerned, we support, first, increasing European funding by €1.2 billion for the 16 countries covered by the neighbourhood policy for 2011-2013. This will bring the total package to €7 billion over that period. On top of this is the increase to €6 billion in the level of loans from the European Investment Bank to Mediterranean partner countries over the same period. In this effort, France will make sure that financial priority continues to be given to the South: at least two-thirds for the South and one-third for the partners of the East. (…)
As far as we’re concerned, we’ll be very firm on the following three points.
Firstly, we consider that, as well as the democratic and economic reforms, effective cooperation from partner countries on readmission and fighting illegal immigration, as much in the South as the East, will have to be intrinsic to the new partnerships which will be negotiated. (…)
Secondly, we think the European Union’s financial support for the Union for the Mediterranean has to be stepped up. At the end of May, the Union for the Mediterranean’s 43 states finally unanimously appointed a new secretary-general of great calibre, Mr Youssef Amrani, currently Secretary-General of the Moroccan Foreign Ministry, who has our full support. We’re now asking the European Union to provide concrete support, through financing from the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument, both for the Union for the Mediterranean secretariat and the projects it will put forward. (…)
Thirdly, we want the Eastern Partnership to play its full role in the Neighbourhood Policy and the European Union to make headway on concluding association agreements and negotiating free-trade agreements. This will be the aim of the Eastern Partnership summit which the Polish EU presidency is holding in Warsaw at the end of September. On the other hand, we don’t want to re-open the debates, concluded under French EU presidency in 2008, on the idea of recognizing the Eastern Partnership countries’ prospect of a future in Europe. (…)./.