- Bas Eickhout
- Rochelle Toplensky
- Guntram B. Wolff, Former Director
For the second event of the Spitzenkandidaten series co-hosted by Bruegel and the Financial Times, Bas Eickhout, a Dutch MEP and candidate of the European Green Party, was the featured candidate. The interviewers for the event were Guntram Wolff, the director of Bruegel, and Rochelle Toplensky, an EU correspondent from the Financial Times.
The first part of the discussion centered around the EU Growth Agenda and how the EU can promote sustainable growth. Eickhout explained that he is committed to creating socially just and environmentally friendly growth in Europe. He gave a detailed analysis of the current energy situation in the EU, demonstrating that the 100 million euros worth of fossil fuels that the EU imports each day is not sustainable. He wants to support innovation in green technologies that will lead to increased investment and economic growth that is sustainable. He also seeks to create a more socially just European tax system and to reform the tax system such that tax evasion is decreased and those who are rich are not able to benefit at the expense of those who are poor. He states that because the current tax system in the EU requires unanimity in voting, there is a lack of harmonization in member states taxation rates. As a result there is a race to the bottom between member states in tax levels, and he hopes to change this as commission president.
The next part of the discussion focused on international trade policies. Here, Eickhout continued his talk of a “race to the bottom” explaining that many trade laws do not sufficiently uphold environmental laws. He believes that all trade deals should include the sustainable development goals and that trade policy should be amended such that the EU inspires other countries to embrace the Paris Agreement. He states that he would refuse to negotiate with any country (including the United States) that refuses to adopt the Paris Climate Accords. The EU, he believes, has much more bargaining power than it gives itself credit for, and it needs to be willing to face a small economic losses in the short-term to promote a better world and a more sustainable future in the long-term.
On eurozone reform and EU convergence policy, Eickhout laid out a plan to decrease inequality between EU regions. He wants the commission to promote an investment agenda that prioritizes investment in the regions that are lagging in economic growth. He felt that the Juncker investment plan should have done something like this, but that it did not. Additionally, he is in favor of taking measures to increase solidarity within the eurozone, and one means to do this would be the creation of eurobonds. He advocates for creating eurobonds at 60% because this will incentivize member countries to decrease their debt levels before joining. By taking steps like this, he believes that the eurozone can eventually become a complete transfer union.
The last topic that was discussed was industrial and competition policy. Much of the discussion centered around the recent Franco-German push for industrial “champions” that will be able to compete globally against the United States and China. Eickhaut said it is important that member states do not go against the EU competition laws or feel that they can override EU laws. With that said, he does in some cases support the creation of european champions. He believes that the EU needs a little more flexibility in its competition laws in order to keep up with the US and China.
In sum, Eickhout offered some very unique perspectives on sustainability in Europe and engaged in a very lively and thought-provoking discussion with the interviewers.
Notes by Davis Cousar
This event was part of a series of talks and debates with Europe’s Spitzenkandidaten and political leaders. Journalists from the FT, along with Bruegel’s Director or a Senior Fellow, explored and challenged the main political parties’ policies for the future of the continent in front of an invited audience. The events were livestreamed on the Bruegel website. For more events, see here.