European countries must implement the structural reforms that Germany has already carried out over the last couple of decades to ramp up competitiveness, the European Union’s top economic official said recently.
Economics and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said Germany’s economy entered the crisis on a stronger footing than others within the EU because it had adjusted to the new world order by carrying out broad structural reforms since the 1990s.
“It is important for everyone that other countries now manage to do what Germany and a few other member states have already managed in past years,” Rehn wrote in a guest column in German daily Handelsblatt.
“Several member states, for example Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain, have already entered on an ambitious course of reform and are making progress,” he added.
Germany sees its economy recovering fast from the worst crisis in decades, while peripheral European economies, such as Greece or Spain, continue to be dogged by the debt crisis, financial woes or growing unemployment.
Economists and policymakers have mostly come to the consensus that other EU states should also boost their competitiveness by wage restraint, an overhaul of their labour markets and more structural reforms.
To the dismay of some, German reforms look set to become the boilerplate for the rest of the EU under a new regime of closer economic coordination.
“There is indeed no doubt that the EU’s entire economy benefits from the strength and resilience of the Germany economy,” Rehn said. “Therefore the continuation of structural reforms in Germany that promote growth is important for the whole of Europe.”
Last year, however, Berlin was often criticised for exacerbating economic imbalances within the EU and urged to do more to reduce its big trade surplus with other member states, for example, by spending more.