As Luxembourg begins its six-month presidency of the EU, the country's ambassador to the US, H E Jean-Louis Wolzfeld, outlined the EU’s seven priorities at a press conference held on July 10, 2015, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. These priorities include revitalising the single EU market by stimulating investment, boosting economic growth and reducing unemployment.
Mr Wolzfeld emphasised that the top priority is to stimulate investment in a bid to boost growth and work creation, something that was first indicated last year, when the European Commission announced a €315bn investment plan to stimulate strategic investment throughout the union. “We also strive to put in place the European Capital Markets Union, which still needs to be streamlined, and compliments the efforts for structural banking reform,” said Mr Wolzfeld.
Mr Wolzfeld also discussed the importance of FDI and trade relationships between Europe and the US, and pointed to the ongoing negotiations around the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a proposed free trade agreement between the EU and the US. “Many large US and multinational companies have invested on both sides of the Atlantic,” said Mr Wolzfeld. “Throughout our 28 EU-member countries, we have substantial FDI, which deserves further development.”
The aim of TTIP is to remove informal barriers to the free movement of trade and investment. “We hope the treaty will give a big boost to investment,” he said.
One issue surrounding the TTIP has been how to settle differences of options between companies and the country in which they invest. The original version of the partnership agreement offered an investor-state arbitration mechanism that differed from the normal judicial system. “This brought some opposition, including what could be viewed as an attack by large international companies against the social system in Europe,” said Mr Wolzfeld.
The European Parliament has compromised, however, by suggesting a modified arbitration system that would guarantee the independence of arbitrators. Mr Wolzfeld maintains that whatever facilitates trade and reduces trade barriers is something that his country, Luxembourg, in particular, is interested in.
He also discussed other topics, including migration, the promotion of sustainable development, placing European competitiveness in a transparent global framework, and strengthening the EU global presence, including in Iran and Ukraine, through the TTIP.
“Our motto for this presidency is a 'union for the citizens', which means we will listen to citizens, support companies and incorporate with partners and institutions,” he said. “This semester will be the continuity of European policies under the strategic agenda adopted by the European Council for the next five years.”