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Why does Europe need money?

The prospect of the European elections on 9 June brings to the fore the heavy financial stakes facing Europe. For Jean-Paul Betbeze, these political, ecological and technological issues require a necessary economic and budgetary pragmatism

One word says it all: transition or transitions, to hide the difficulties that lie ahead of us, and their costs. Green transition, not to say: climate change and CO2 reduction, with the end of petrol cars, the redesign of cities, the renovation of housing, factories and offices. Then comes the demographic transition, to avoid talking about ageing, health and the financing of pensions. This is followed by the digital transition, to deal with AI, from training to new or renewed jobs. Finally, it is the turn of the geopolitical transition, not to mention war, investment in research and new armaments. As you can see, Europe needs money, a lot of money, to continue to carry weight in the world to come.

We will be told that this is not new, but this addition of transitions is now enormous. Indeed, faced with this accumulation of new needs, with their monetary translations, the States are all in difficulty, whether they admit it or not. Here they are, all competing, frugal or not, to survive. None of them can claim to be in budgetary surplus, because none of these “transitions” is evaluated, and therefore provisioned.

European calculations show their backward-looking attitude in their obsession with a public deficit that would exceed 3% of GDP. Fortunately, in the third quarter of 2023, it stood at 2.8% for both the European Union and the euro area, a slight decrease of 0.2 points compared to the second quarter of 2023 for both. Nevertheless, most European countries have public deficits of more than 5% of GDP: Italy, France, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland. Only eight EU states had a government surplus, notably Denmark, Cyprus, Portugal and Croatia. But whether it’s deficits or even surpluses, they miss out on our inevitable bills.

Still late, new European fiscal rules will come into force. France will therefore be subject to an excessive deficit procedure on 19 June in Brussels, like a dozen other countries. Why not for everyone? When are we going to stop forgetting the political, ecological, technological and social revolutions that are at work and underestimating the necessary investments, reforms and training, without seeing the lost (failed) investments in our companies? In other words: losses? How long are we going to look at inflation at 2%, to curb the increases of the most qualified employees? Or we can oppose European mergers, in industry or finance, on the pretext that they have too large a share of a market… national? It is in relation to the world, between the United States and China, that we must compare ourselves. Increasing productivity, which will be discussed in the Draghi report, and strengthening the Savings and Investment Union, which is mentioned in the Letta report, are our obligations.

Let’s stop criticising the profits and dividends of certain companies: they are insufficient! We need a more profitable capitalism, with fewer multinationals that are really profitable, fewer so-called “intermediate” companies, but larger, American-sized asset managers… Less tax too, without fear of a downgrade by the rating agencies whose approach marks the change of era we are experiencing. More than one European loan, the great advantage of which is that it does not weigh on the national accounts – without Moody’s being moved. And if all this is not enough, we will need a special European loan to feed a European sovereign wealth fund, either a bond and a 3% interest rate for example, or buying shares, both without tax. It is obvious: we know less and less what we will have to pay for Europe to remain a world power, and therefore to prepare to finance it. Yet it is vital.

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