The Luxembourg European Union presidency has got off to a good start in parliament. Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker became the president-in-office of the European Council on January the first and has just presented the next six months’ agenda. From Strasbourg, he gave reassurances about reform of the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact:
“Some things should be kept firm, namely the target levels for member states’ budget deficits and debts — 3% and 60%, respectively.”
Extreme adjustments to the Pact are out, as far as he is concerned. He rejects any idea of sacrificing stability, of bringing in unlimited flexibility, just as he rejects keeping the pact exactly the way it is now. “We need more stability and more flexibility following economic ups and downs,” he said.
Revamping the Lisbon strategy for economic competitiveness and nursing along ratification of the European Constitution are high on the to-do list; Financial planning for the next EU budget is another of the major challenges; Arrangements for further EU enlargement will take attention as well. Juncker also touched on a need to simplify.
“We have too many processes”, was one of his peeves. “The EU is more like a research bureau that doesn’t get used than a factory for practically applicable and applied ideas. We have to change that by rationalising our strategy.”
Looking outward, he said energies would go into nurturing external relations, notably with Russia and the U.S. Luxembourg was one of the founding nations of the European Community, and Juncker has presided at the head of the European Council three times over the past twenty years.