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Fmr Minister Says EU Needs Change to Maintain its Influence (interview)

Brussels, 10 May (STA) - Ziga Turk, the secretary-general of the EU reflection group, which is looking for answers to the bloc's future challenges, has told the STA in an interview that radical economic reform and political change are the only way to maintain the influence and values of Europe in the world.

Turk, Slovenia's development minister in the 2004-2008 term, added that the main message of the group's report on Europe's future between 2020 and 2030 is that globally, Europe's share was rapidly shrinking in all indicators.

Those European countries which used to be colonial superpowers and ruled half of the world are becoming a tiny bit of the world's economy, Turk commented on the report presented on Saturday by the group's chair, former Spanish PM Felipe Gonzalez.

According to Turk, the only way for Europe to keep its economic and social model is to continue boosting the quality of life and implementing its priorities - radical economic and political reforms and communicating with the rest of the world with a single voice.

He agrees with Gonzalez that the mechanism for the Greece aid should have been adopted months earlier, before the crisis reached the tipping point. "There must be a systemic mechanism for this thing to be resolved quickly and effectively," he added.

For Turk the only good side of the Greek case is that people will now take their responsibilities more seriously. Solidarity carries responsibilities with itself, both for the giver and the receiver, he explained.

Turk believes that the institutional and financial system around the euro should be upgraded so that it becomes "a full-blooded currency, which will be able to cope with such challenges".

Asked about the challenges during the compilation of the report, he said there had been different views about how strongly Europe should integrate, on the balance between regulation and economic freedom, between solidarity and competitiveness and similar.

Turk noted that the report implicitly calls on EU leaders to stop acting for political gain at home by presenting themselves as guardians of their countries against the "evil and ugly Brussels" and urges them to respect the European idea more.

The reflection group wants to see the European Council take concrete decisions on the basis of the group's recommendations and make sure they are implemented, according to him.

"A general problem in Europe is that much is said and written, we have studies and strategies, but then we do not implement them," he said, adding that the problem of the Stability and Growth Pact is that it is not being taken seriously.

Asked about the Europe 2020 strategy, a successor to the Lisbon Strategy, Turk said he finds it good that the European Council would take a greater role as a player which can help move things forward in Brussels and at home.

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