We met Catiuscia Marini, the new President of the PES Group in the Committee of the Regions, to discuss her political priorities for the 2015-2020 term of office. She stressed the need for investments to re-launch economic growth and employment. She expects that the European Commission will further develop the EU unemployment insurance scheme and move beyond the debate about a minimum wage towards a concept of a decent living wage.
You have recently been elected President of the PES Group in the CoR. What is your main priority for the 2015-2020 CoR term of office?
The key priority for our Group will be to put in place the conditions for a re-launch of sustainable growth and job creation in EU cities and regions. The start of the new term of office for the CoR comes after the first timid steps taken by the new European Commission to move beyond the austerity dogma that Juncker's predecessor, José Manuel Barroso, arduously defended. The Commission has acknowledged that the EU is currently suffering from dramatic under-investment, but the proposed investment plan will not in itself be sufficient to redress the situation rapidly. In fact, it should be seen as a kick-off initiative to re-launch growth and job creation. Our aim is to ensure that investments do not go chiefly to quick-win projects concentrated in some highly developed regions, leaving all the others behind, but that they genuinely foster sustainable development across the EU and in areas such as public transport, energy efficiency and broadband projects in rural areas.
How can the EU win back citizens' trust in the European project?
To regain citizens' – and especially young people's - trust in the EU, we have to strengthen the social dimension of European integration and resolutely move away from austerity-only policies. The PES Group will therefore continue to put pressure on the European Commission to propose incentive measures for achieving the social objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy and to include further key employment and social indicators in the scoreboard which is used to measure progress. We also expect the European Commission to develop ideas for an EU unemployment insurance scheme and to move beyond the debate about a minimum wage towards a concept of a decent living wage, and also come forward with ambitious proposals to improve labour mobility.
What are your priorities regarding Europe's transition towards a sustainable and energy-efficient economy?
The PES Group calls for a revision and strengthening of the energy efficiency directive, which should take into account the need for decentralised energy solutions to reduce Europe's dependency on fossil fuels. Moreover, we will continue to put pressure on the European Commission to present an Action Plan against energy poverty, which should propose measures at European, national and regional/local level to improve the situation of the EU's most vulnerable consumers. The PES Group will also persevere with its demand for ambitious climate targets, that is, binding targets of 50% CO² reduction, 40% renewable energy and 40% energy efficiency by 2030.We know that these targets can be met at the local and regional level and we are convinced that the EU needs to lead the way to ensure that a deal is made at the Paris climate change conference in order to still have a chance of limiting global warming to no more than 2°C.
What is your position in the current debate on migration?
The most recent tragedies in the Mediterranean Sea have once again highlighted the urgent need for swift, fair and long-term EU action. We need a just asylum policy which offers protection to those who need it, prevents the unacceptable loss of lives in trying to reach the EU and is based on solidarity between Member States and regions in receiving refugees and asylum seekers. At the same time, we finally have to give serious consideration to building a European migration policy which offers safe, legal channels for immigration, and which should not be limited solely to highly-skilled workers. A thorough overhaul of the Dublin regulation is urgently needed in this context. We also need to actively support cooperation with third countries of origin and transit of migratory movements. We must coordinate these policies much more closely with the EU's development policies, building also on the European Year for Development 2015.