In a speech at the European Business Summit, President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy said: “We have to adapt our socio-economic models to a rapidly changing world, while bringing people and public opinions on board. Election results and opinions polls across Europe show this is a huge political challenge… The objective is clear and shared by all: Europe must remain this very attractive continent in which to live and work, create wealth and spend it, for all citizens. And for that we need growth, ‘quality’ growth. And an environment of social dialogue, cohesion and fairness.”
Rompuy referred to four basic needs for businesses: ideas, an innovative environment, especially in industry, people, with all sorts of skills and abilities, capital, to finance investments and markets, to sell and to source. These are “at the heart of Europe’s growth strategy. Innovation and research, bank credit and venture capital, labour markets, international trade…” he said, adding a fifth key need: stability. “Political, social, economic and financial stability. It is a precondition for the four others, the basis of confidence and a core function of Government.”
Rompuy stressed: “…fiscal consolidation is not an objective in itself, it is a prerequisite for sustainable growth. Structural reforms remain the main lever at our disposal. Their effects are not immediate nor can they be, but they will make a difference over time, and create jobs in due course. We must tell the truth. There are no magic formulas. Reforms take time and so does their impact on growth and jobs.”
“…Europe needs structural economic growth, and we can deliver it… This is the highest priority for European leaders, and we are working in close contact to make it happen. We will be meeting again in June within the European Council to take important decisions and I do not exclude convening an informal Leaders’ dinner at an earlier date for an open exchange of views on how best to prepare matters for June,” Rompuy noted.
“We have to engage in the battle of ideas. Fiscal consolidation does not just equal momentary austerity. It also means investing in the future. It is an exercise in making the right, future-oriented choices. Cuts and taxes need to be fair. Even a growth policy needs choices and sacrifices, but these should not be borne by one social group or generation. Some create the impression (or the illusion) that a growth policy is easy. This is not at all the case. It is a moment of truth. We have to shape change, otherwise it will be imposed on us.”