Below is the full text of my interview with Bloomberg Professional Services for their Global Policymakers Profile series.
Here is the link to the original on the Bloomberg website.
Frankly, the most recent one. I was recently elected Chair of the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee. It has been a very intense and demanding role, but it is the place where I am happy to be.
Out of office
Cities are one of the most fascinating and amazing inventions of humanity, and I am a very urban person. I like to go downtown, walk its streets, get distracted looking at the buildings, shops and stores. I like to watch people rushing around. Unfortunately, this is much more difficult in the current circumstances.
My inspiration and my motivation
When I was young, my role model was Rita Levi Montalcini, the first Italian woman who received a Nobel Prize in medicine. I really admired her tenacity, independence and intelligence. In more recent times, what motivates me the most is my 6-year-old son. When I face challenges, when I’m tired, I always think about how he will look back at me when he’s older, and I hope he would be proud of me.
Europe’s response to the COVID-19 crisis
There are two levels of action in Europe. Firstly, all EU institutions have increasingly provided answers, they are using all the tools they have available or are coming up with new ideas. From the ECB’s support programmes (QE, TLTRO), to the EU Commission’s €37 billion support package and the SURE programme proposal to support employment in Member States, up to the recent proposal of the Commission for a Recovery Plan, involving €750 billion of additional resources levied through common debt issuance, €500 billion of which to be disbursed to Member States through grants.
Secondly, there are the Member States, which have activated their own national responses in terms of fiscal policies, supporting households and businesses. But now Member States must support the proposal of the Commission and find agreement to give EU institutions new powers and instruments to fight this crisis.
My priority for this crisis
The key priority is of course to overcome the sanitary and healthcare emergency and return to a normal life, supporting families and communities.
But looking at the upcoming challenges, it is key to keep in mind the European Union’s overarching priorities in the economic and financial field: preserving the Single Market, preserving the stability of the euro area and its Monetary Union, and also preserving a level playing field in the EU.
National governments have given very different responses to the crisis, according to their own situation. This could lead to greater divergencies in the coming months and increase the pressure on the Single Market.
We shouldn’t forget what the European Union stands for and why it was created. If we keep these objectives in mind, the rest will follow. It will be then natural to ensure greater solidarity and opt for the strongest response at the European level. The proposal of the Commission is a positive step in this direction and hopefully the final outcome will be too. The European Parliament stands ready to do its part.
Ensuring a sustainable recovery and resilient economic system following the COVID-19 crisis
It’s difficult to make a full forecast about what the final version of the Recovery Plan will be, but I believe that, now more than ever, the conditions and awareness are there to truly take steps forward. As co-legislators, together with Member States, we will have to agree on increasing the financial resources of the EU, to be able to respond to this crisis but also to enhance our resilience to face any future crisis. As the Commission’s proposal suggests, this means strengthening the EU budget—the Multiannual Financial Framework—increasing the EU’s own resources and enhancing fiscal integration.
We also have to preserve the stability of the Union and complete the Banking Union. We cannot address the recovery only with public resources, we will also need to mobilize private capital and the Capital Markets Union will become paramount, making the EU attractive for investments in the recovery phase.
A rational approach is needed
We need to think in a very rational way about what kind of instruments can support the EU in the next months and years, to allow for a full economic recovery, as well as a rational allocation of capital and investment to support growth.
In this context, I think the debate on Eurobonds has been too loaded with ideology. In terms of financial assets, Eurobonds would offer a safe asset that could be essential for investors to make up their portfolios and allocate investments within the EU.
Even putting aside the debate on a European safe asset, under the current circumstances, it is rational to think about a temporary mutualization of the debt needed to address the crisis as a way to make sure the EU gets out of it stronger and more united. This is what the European Parliament has clearly stated in two resolutions, and what the Commission has now included in its proposal. Let’s hope the Council shows the same level of open-mindedness and rationality. As a MEP and Chair of the ECON Committee, I certainly look forward to engaging in the discussion and negotiating a Recovery Plan that will deliver on European citizens’ expectations.
Increasing institutional accountability in the crisis
In my capacity of ECON Chair, I want to give the European Parliament an important role in the context of the crisis, by voicing the concerns of citizens and increasing the accountability of other European Institutions. ECON MEPs, as representatives of EU citizens, are holding regular dialogues with other institutions such as the ECB, as well as with relevant Commissioners and ministers from Member States. This is something I am very proud of: during the crisis we have kept the ECON Committee open and held several meetings with key EU and national key policymakers.
Democratising the decision-making process
I would like to bring the European Parliament and the ECON Committee into the debate and give it a central role, in a process of democratisation. If we create greater and closer involvement in Parliament and within the ECON Committee, we can help bring the institutions and decision-making processes closer to the citizens. We were doing this before the crisis, and I will continue to do so until the end of my mandate.
I focus on the sources I know are reliable and professional. When it comes to economic trends, numbers are very important, and I like to go straight to the source and check economic data from public institutions and central banks.
Finally, to cut through the noise I just use my phone: I am lucky enough to have access to top leaders and sometimes the best thing to do is to pick up the phone and speak to one another. Keeping a direct information flow between people helps avoid misunderstandings. It’s vitally important, especially in the current environment.