By ANDREW WILLIS
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has said the EU’s new 10-year economic plan, set to be agreed over the coming months, should have binding goals and “corrective measures” for member states that do not comply.
Speaking ahead of the formal inauguration of Spain’s EU presidency on Thursday (7 January), Mr Zapatero also suggested that the European Commission be given new powers to police the fledgling plan, currently known as the “2020 Strategy.”
“It is absolutely necessary for the 2020 Economic Strategy … to take on a new nature, a binding nature,” said Mr Zapatero.
The Spanish leader suggested potential penalties for member states that fail to reach agreed economic targets could include cutbacks in payments from the EU budget.
“This is something we are going to put on the table. But I cannot preempt the outcome of the debate,” said the Socialist prime minister, whose country is the first to hold the EU’s six-month rotating presidency under the bloc’s new Lisbon Treaty rules.
The calls for greater and more co-ordinated European efforts to tackle the ailing economy stand next to Spain’s domestic situation, where years of rapid expansion ended abruptly with the onset of the financial crisis and the implosion of the country’s property bubble.
While remaining vague on many of the details, Mr Zapatero said a common energy policy and a common digital economy were examples of the priorities that should be included in the EU growth strategy.
“Our main aim is to introduce a qualitative leap in our economic union by means of new common policies,” he said, pointing to the need for a greater role to be played by the commission.
“The Lisbon Treaty allows for more co-ordination, and for that to be truly effective, we need to equip the European Commission with new powers,” said the Spanish leader, pointing to the absence of strong enforcement for the failure of the bloc’s current economic plan, due to expire this year.