On Wednesday, European Commissioners Marianne Thyssen and Jyrki Katainen appeared unaffected by the concerns the regions expressed in regard to the impact the new European accountancy rules would have on public investments. The Wednesday meeting between the different regional governments was to talk about the new “Juncker Funds”, 300 billion euros of investments.
The Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner, Finnish official Jyrki Katainen, and the Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner, the Belgian Marianne Thyssen, met with the Concertation committee to promote the new European Funds for strategic investments (EFSI) – or “Juncker Funds”. They will provide more than 300 billion euros for growth and employment in Europe.
“This meeting allowed us to ask a series of technical questions, particularly about accounting, flexibility, and the impact on the pact for stability and growth”, said Prime Minister Charles Michel. “Not everything has been dealt with, but the last decisions regarding this plan should be made before the summer”. How much Belgium will get is not yet known. Belgium is investing in energy and telecommunications, focusing on interconnections with neighbouring countries and digital technology, the Prime Minister has said. The explanations the Commissioners gave the regional governments should help them continue to work on projects they want to submit, with the help of private partners. “They need to be quick”, says Mr Michel. “We already have a list of potential projects prepared for the European experts”.
There are still questions from Belgian officials, especially from federal institutions. They concern the impact these investments will have on budgets and the public debt. The new Eurostat accountancy rules did affect Flanders and Wallonia, as they had to account for investments, which had otherwise been kept separate, in their spending.
The European Commissioners did not show much understanding. They said that these concerns had only been expressed by Belgium so far, and not by other member States. “We are not in a good position to ask for flexibility, due to our high rate of debt and the way we rebalanced the budget”, says Mr Michel (Reformist Movement). The Finance Minister Johan Van Overtveldt (New Flemish Alliance) said he disagreed Belgium was alone in its concerns, due to conversations with colleagues in other member States.