The emergence of a new credit rating agency
The figures published in January by the credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded the ratings of various Member States, including France, Spain and Italy. This was alarming for the different governments, who, despite not overlooking their economic fragility, had underestimated its importance. The emphasis is now on the first European credit rating agency, supported by the German consulting firm Roland Berger, which will begin its activity before July. The establishment of this impartial agency will undoubtedly please those who maintain that the North American agencies are biased by national interests, i.e. the dollar, as explained by Antonio Tajani, Vice President of the European Commission, in an interview with Spanish newspaper El País.
Relaxing labour market restrictions to alleviate unemployment
The issue of unemployment is also of high priority in 2012. According to data collected by Eurostat, 9.8% of the citizens in the EU and 10.3% in the countries in the eurozone were unemployed in 2011. The statistics are increasingly alarming in the southernmost parts, with the percentage of unemployment in Spain at 22.9%, and at 18.8% in Greece. There are strategies in place to improve these figures, including the implementation of support for small and medium-sized businesses, the improvement of training and research programmes, and the controversial implementation of measures to relax labour market restrictions.
The plans to create employment at a European level face problems, such as the unequal application of laws in the single market, and the legal complexity of some transactions, caused by differing national legislation. These challenges, and others, need to be confronted by the 27 Member States, with the focus on improving how the single market functions by investing in sustainable growth.
Focus on individual goals of each member state
The objectives of Europe 2020, the European strategy of growth in the current decade, are based on the EU’s recognition of the need to increase its investment in improvement and development, the reduction of harmful gas emissions, and the fight against social exclusion and poverty. These proposals, put in place by the Commission, are designed to help to support and prepare the European economy for the next decade, as it continues its work in areas of development, education, social integration, the climate and energy. Each member state has agreed to set individual goals which should be translated into concrete measures, as evaluated by the European Council and the Commission, and in the process will involve every European institution and organisation, from the Economic and Social Committee, to the Central Bank.
These targets seem less promising in light of the economists’ announcements, some of which predict nothing short of the apocalypse. But the solutions which do not recognise the need for sustainable and intelligent growth could compromise the future of Europe’s vision. We can be sure that the institutions tending to the poor health of this old continent will still have to battle with its old problems.