Speech delivered in Strasbourg on the 20th January by Gianni Pittella on the priorities of the Dutch presidency

During the next 6 months, your Presidency will reach its defining moment : on the one hand, you could be partly responsible, albeit reluctantly, for the end of European integration, whilst on the other hand, you could be at the forefront of Europe’s recovery.

Our group wants to help you to choose the path of recovery.

In order to do so, we need to bolster our economic policies, Member States need to commit to strengthening the Investment Plan and we need to lay down the foundations for the European Union to have fiscal competency. Time is of the essence.

We need to enable Member States to invest. For this reason we champion the concept of budget flexibility introduced by this Commission. Flexibility is also the key in handling the refugee crisis, as President Juncker rightly said. We must also make progress with the Banking Union and approve the deposit guarantee scheme.

On fiscal matters, we expect a change of tack in support of the efforts undertaken by the Commission. We cannot obsessively pursue the dogma of national budget discipline and yet allow multinational companies to siphon off  hundreds of billions of Euros from the public coffers. Taxes should be paid where profit is generated and that is why we are asking the Dutch Presidency to support the proposals set out in the Ferreira-Theurer report. First and foremost, we would like to see the rapid adoption of ‘public country-by-country reporting’.

We also need a wake-up call on social Europe. Social dumping is a disgrace. Our group wants the Dutch Presidency to be remembered for its contribution to the adoption of a good labour mobility package. In the forthcoming weeks, the Commission will present this package and we are particularly eager to see the review of the Posted Workers Directive. This is of vital importance to us and is part of the agreement, based on which we affirmed our confidence in the European Commission.

There are several solutions for dealing with the refugee crisis on the table: the creation of hotspots, mechanisms for the redistribution of refugees and a review of the Dublin Strategy are all necessary.

The Commission has done its duty, whereas the Member States are holding back and shying away from the commitments they have made to redistribute refugees. Let’s be clear: if you persist with vetoes as a Council, you will be responsible for the collapse of the Union.

Even on Schengen, the news from Member States provides little by way of encouragement. Some are envisaging a mini-Schengen area. Others are reintroducing border checks. These measures are wrong and ineffective and may even harm the European economy.

Europe must not close in on itself. I would like to make a plea to open up, within the next few hours, a humanitarian corridor to save the Syrian cities besieged by hunger and freezing temperatures. We need to see the bigger picture, look beyond our borders and address issues such as conflict minerals. Europe can show that it is a force for change. I wish you all the best and ‘good luck’!