European citizens need the European Union to solve problems, not to create or multiply them, European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici commented on Wednesday, speaking at a ceremony where he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Athens Economic Sciences department.
Moscovici said that 2017 could not be a year of inertia for Europe, warning that the gains of the last half century were now at stake. Noting that he was born in the year that the Rome Treaty establishing the EU was signed,
Moscovici said he belonged to “the first generation in western Europe that has not experienced the destructiveness of war.”
“It is my strong ambition that we will build a more political Europe, with a stronger Eurozone at its heart,” he added.
Referring to Greece, Moscovici said that the threat of Grexit – which he had expended much effort to avert in recent years – had been eliminated.
“It is now time to pave the way for a success story. For a strong Greece, which is recovering and regaining confidence, creating jobs and attracting investments, in the heart of a stronger Eurozone,” he added.
At other points in his speech at the ceremony, attended by Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, several government ministers, politicians, diplomats, academics and business people, Moscovici also referred to the possibility of a Cyprus solution, saying this would give people inspiration.
He noted that, in order to fight populism, it was necessary to reverse a trend toward austerity and a divergence between Eurozone economies that had arisen in the last six years. There had to be strong growth and its fruits had to be divided fairly, not just between countries but also within countries and societies, he added.
“It is my sincere hope that Greece will be the first country to implement such an economic strategy,” he added, saying this would require a focus on human capital and productivity and, by extension, improved education at all levels, from kindergarten to life-long learning.
A first step would be to close the “huge investment gap” that was a legacy of the crisis, Moscovici said, adding that the Juncker Plan was a start in this direction and could leverage additional capital of 170 billion euros. Fair taxation was another important parameter, he added, with multinationals paying their share where they earned profits.
“We need a more democratic Europe and to strengthen the political contract between Europe and the citizens, between European decision-making centres and national authorities,” he said.