As the Dutch presidency of the Council of the EU is over, it is now time for a short analysis on its plan for the economic and financial affairs. What were the key achievements of the Dutch presidency in financial and economic policies?
As the European Semester/s goes on, the Dutch presidency over the EU has been finished on 30th of June, and now is time for a short analysis on what the Netherlands’ plan had brought to the economic and financial affairs within the EU presidency mandate.
What were the key achievements of the Dutch presidency, and how will Slovakia (which will be presiding the Council in the second half of the year), continue with the proscribed goals of the Dutch presidency’s economic and financial package?
During the Netherlands Presidency, debates on member states’ performance and implementation of recommendations were included on the agenda. This initiative can help bring about a stronger European Semester and is consistent with efforts to strengthen the implementation of country-specific recommendations and promote structural reforms and better governance in the member states. The Netherlands Presidency intended to extend the existing practice of using the recommendations for the Eurozone member states and the group itself.
The very beginning of the presiding period was vastly dynamic. On Wednesday 27th and Thursday 28th of January, the informal meeting of the European Competitiveness Council was held in Amsterdam. This time the Council dealt with issues such as strengthening the single market and digital single market for companies. This also was a way for citizens and consumers to come together in a unique setting. The outcome of the meeting was “adoption” of informal memorandum, which created the next step towards the stronger and more unified competitiveness policy within the Union.
Bringing back confidence in tax system was the next task which was put highly in the Dutch “ecofin” agenda for the first half of 2016. Tackling with tax avoidance was top priority. It could have been fought only by recovering the confidence in system.
As Dutch minister Kamp underlined “if big companies don’t pay their fair share, the public will be unwilling to pay theirs. Revelations like LuxLeaks and the Panama Papers have knocked the public’s confidence in a fair tax system. I hope it will return now we are closing the escape routes for multinationals.”
According to the Eurostat agency, the European economy is looking up. Overall, in 2016 the European Commission expects EU GDP to grow by 2%, the highest figure for six years. The challenge now is to turn this budding growth into a full recovery, by enhancing EU`s competitiveness. Entrepreneurs and businesses play a major role in meeting that challenge.
The “Financial package” for Europe
Several major issues had been put into focus when it comes to the financial affairs in the first half of the year. Creation of a stronger banking union among the Member States was the matter which dated back even before the Netherlands started its presidency mandate.
Tax avoidance has been high on the agenda during the Presidency. After nearly 6 months the EU finance ministers reached an initial agreement on a comprehensive package of measures to stop tax avoidance on 17 June, subject to a ‘silence procedure’. The agreement was finalised during the Netherlands Presidency in the night of 20-21 June. Also, confidence in the tax system was also introduced and debated upon, as a part of the “financial package” of the Dutch presidency.
Slovak continuum of the Dutch presidency’s economic and financial package
According to the official website of the Slovak presidency over the EU, in the area of economy and finance the Slovak presidency will focus on further steps in the economic and monetary union (following the Five Presidents’ Report published in June 2015).
- fight against tax fraud and tax evasion;
- further steps relating to the European fund for strategic investments, measures to establish the capital markets union;
- steps towards completion of the banking union;
- fighting against terrorist financing;
- an agreement with the European Parliament on the EU budget for 2017.
Slovakia announced that it will follow the guidelines for overall 2016 presidency period along with the Netherlands. The main concern for Slovakia, will surely be creation of the next year`s EU budget within the seven-year adopted budget (2014-2020).
An economic sense of presiding over the Union
A very turbulent migrant period which had hit Europe, drew the attention from economic and financial affairs to the migrant issues. A burning season of meetings with Turkey and other main stakeholders in the crisis, have led to closure (or at least volens-nolens ignorance) of the economic growth and other important issues. In overall, the Dutch presidency did not put that much attention to the ecofin agenda, but it was a matter of bad timing, and not intentional mistake. As Mr Juncker also admitted: The EU will now have to put aside its historic idea(l)s, and to commit to resolving of the current problems which can significantly hit those ideas of united Europe.