• Date 12 October 2020

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The Interparliamentary Conference has its roots in the European debt crisis. At the time, many changes were introduced at the intergovernmental level – from the collection of the European bank levy by the SRB (Single Resolution Board) to the ESM to the Fiscal Compact, where this conference was mentioned for the first time under Article 13.

And the measures paid off: European democracy came out of the crisis stronger.

Our experiences at the time are standing us in good stead today, because the coronavirus pandemic is forcing all of us to make some difficult decisions and to think carefully about how we want to shape the coming decade together. With an awareness of our shared responsibility and the need for solidarity. Because that is what the European Union stands for.

I am glad that Europe has shown strength and determination throughout the coronavirus crisis. The member states acted quickly and with solidarity to provide a safety net to mitigate the economic consequences of the pandemic – for all EU countries and their health systems, for companies and workers. EU support for short-time work arrangements and the European Investment Bank guarantee fund, which is enabling direct assistance to be given to small and medium-sized enterprises – these are examples of European cooperation.

And these instruments are being used: over €80 billion of the €100 billion of the SURE programme for financing short-time work schemes have already been disbursed to member states. It is also clear that these support measures and the restructuring of the ESM are working, because unlike during the last major crisis, no country has yet run into financial difficulties. And this is because we pulled together at an early stage. It is reassuring for all countries to know that when the going gets tough, we Europeans are there for one another.

Being there for one another is something we have also achieved with the European recovery plan, the details of which are currently being negotiated. The new Multiannual Financial Framework and recovery package agreed in the European Council are a big success and represent a significant step forward – and not just because of the impressive sums involved. We are channelling €750 billion into reinvigorating our economies, securing jobs and creating new economic prospects. But above all we are future-proofing our economies for the coming decade with targeted investment in climate action, the energy transition and digital technologies.

We have also set a clear course in terms of fiscal policy:

First: The funds will be borrowed by the EU itself. Until now, only the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism, the European Commission’s counterpart to the EFSF (European Financial Stability Facility), was funded in a similar way in 2010. But this time we are ensuring that the funds are used not for the ongoing financing of national budgets, but for targeted investment in the future and for Europe’s recovery.

Second: The money will be paid back, starting as early as during the next Multiannual Financial Framework period. This is part of the consensus that we reached.

Third: In order to guarantee repayment, we will establish new revenue sources for the EU in due course. This will give Europe greater fiscal capacity and is nothing short of a small political revolution.

New own resources mean a more strongly integrated fiscal policy. This means we are moving towards a fiscal union and taking a major step forward in advancing the financial capacity and sovereignty of the EU. And we are ensuring a more stable economic and monetary union.

To this end we also need to move forward with the capital markets union and banking union. It is a good thing that the Commission presented its action plan on building a capital markets union at the end of September, as this will inject new momentum into the process.

At the same time, we need to make better use of the opportunities of digitalisation for the integration of financial markets. Digital solutions are transforming financial markets and banking. Europe needs to set standards in this area in order to guarantee financial stability, data protection, fair competition and a globally competitive financial industry.

Ladies and gentlemen, Europe is at a turning point. We can create a “more perfect union”. But to reach our goal, we need to constantly renegotiate our common interests, endeavour to understand each other, but also set the bar high for ourselves. It is the great challenge – but also the great opportunity – that European integration presents us with.