The EESC plenary and its guest, Commissioner in charge of Internal Market and Services, Michel Barnier, advocated tight European economic governance to fend off the effects of the economic crisis and to ensure the bloc's competitiveness. The EESC called for a levy on financial transactions, a tax the Commission discusses.
"We need to move towards a coordination of macroeconomic policies whilst several European countries are taking austerity measures," EESC President Mario Sepi said. "One common course is to tax international financial transactions. Economy has to be ethical and there is a hierarchy in terms of real economy and finance," he said.
Talking of the Commission's plans to tackle the crisis and put the European economies on a growth course, Commissioner Barnier highlighted a controversy that, if left unchanged, might reduce Europe to a secondary role among the players of the world market. "We have five hundred million consumers, 17 countries with the same currency, yet our economic, financial and budgetary policies remain juxtaposed."
"We need European governance to regain the confidence of the markets while surveillance and regulation tools must be in place to ensure that the common discipline in the fields of sovereign debt and public deficit is respected," he said. "The current financial crisis is a supervisory crisis. Not a single financial service can remain unsupervised."
He called for a more efficient internal market, to be addressed in the Commission's Single Market Act proposal in October, and a European patent code to boost innovation.
In reaction to the Commissioner's words, Mr Georgios Dassis (Employees' Group president, Greece ) warned against Commission proposals that would end up hitting the poorest, while Mr Henri Malosse (Employers' Group president, France) emphasized the importance of proper explanations to citizens, a task where the EESC is instrumental. Ms Reine Claude Mader-Saussaye (Various Interests Group, France) pressed for measures that do not cut off credit resources from enterprises and citizens.
Underlining President Sepi's words, the EESC adopted an opinion in favour of a financial transaction tax (FTT), levied on the grounds that it would curb short-term speculation and force banks to contribute to the public costs of the financial crisis. Echoing Mr Barnier's stance, rapporteur Mr Lars Nyberg (Employees' Group, Sweden ) added, "The financial sector should serve the real economy and not vice versa. Alternative taxes would hit normal people a lot harder. An FTT is the most progressive tax we could imagine."
The opinion may be accessed here: