“We have avoided recession, inflation is falling and the labor market is in good shape,” according to a member of the European Commission

Paolo Gentiloni, the European Commissioner for Economic Affairs, is Franceinfo’s eco guest on Tuesday.


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Paolo Gentiloni on March 19, 2024. (FRANCEINFO / RADIOFRANCE)

Scheduled for June 6 to 9, the European elections will lead to a renewal of several presidencies of the institutions of the European Union, including that of the Commission, currently led by Ursula von der Leyen for five years.

Paolo Gentiloni, European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, member of the Italian Democratic Party (PD), President of the Italian Council of Ministers (2016-2018), a meeting, Tuesday March 19 in the evening, in Matignon with Prime Minister Gabriel Attal.

franceinfo : What will you say to Gabirel Attal ? What do you think of the economic situation in France? ?

Paolo Gentiloni : This is the first time I met Gabriel Attal. France is, in the new geography of growth that we now have in Europe, one of the countries which best responded to the crisis of the war in Ukraine, to the energy crisis, to inflation. That does not mean that we have splendid growth, but we, in Brussels, make comparisons and we see that the crisis particularly affects the Nordic countries, the countries of central-eastern Europe and much less the countries like France, which has consistently positive growth.

Growth forecasts are at 1%, and that’s still a little optimistic… But aren’t you worried?

No. It’s not ideal, but we had eleven countries in 2023 which had negative growth, out of 27. France is not in this group. Because the reasons for the crisis are very much linked to the energy model and the export model which is naturally very seriously affecting economies which have large exports to China and which have energy models which were very linked to the cheap gas, which came from Russia. So, the entire European economy is now weak. But we are rather optimistic for the second part of the year. French weakness is less serious than that of other countries.

You started talking about Germany which is emerging very slowly from its recession and which is the economic engine of Europe. In what state is Europe less than three months before the European elections?

If we look from a rather optimistic side, we can say that we have avoided the recession. We were able to decouple from Russian gas very quickly, in a few months, inflation is falling at the European level and the labor market is in good shape in all European countries. If we look at the less positive, we know that in 2023, we had very low growth and we are starting 2024 again with low growth. We estimate that in the second part of the year, we will see a recovery in consumption and stronger economic activity, and even stronger next year. But we must recognize that there are three fundamental things in our economy that are under pressure: cheap gas, exports to China and security guaranteed by the United States. These three things are under discussion and we must address these challenges.

If you had just one economic initiative to remember from these five years in office, what would it be? Group purchases of vaccines, the recovery plan, financing the ecological transition or financial aid to Ukraine?

I would say the recovery plan for the ecological transition. It will stay. This is the first time in the history of the European Union that we have a common debt. In my opinion, this plan will end in 2026, but the method we used can be used again to finance common objectives. And so far, it’s truly historic.

The orientation is to renew what ends in 2026, but not with the same program. I am not saying that we must take the recovery plan and extend it until 2030. I am saying that we have a method. Now, we finance ourselves in the financial markets for 100, 120 billion euros every year. And we can do that for common goals.

What types of objectives?

First, the ecological transition which is number one. Second, digital innovation. Third, our defense, and fourth, what we call social inclusion. In other words, the Covid crisis has also shown us that the European model, which is a free public service model, must be maintained and financed.

What message are you sending to citizens for the next European elections?

I think everyone has understood the importance of the European Union. 58 years ago, there were many political and cultural positions that said: “We want to leave the European Union, we want to abandon the single currency”. This is no longer the case. The joint purchase of vaccines, the recovery plan, the Ukraine question, all these questions need a stronger Europe. The question now is no longer whether we should go out or not, but how should we organize ourselves?

source site-25