H. E. Eduard Heger, Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic
H. E. Sebastian Kurz, Chancellor of the Republic of Austria
Karel Havlicek, the deputy Prime Minister for the Czech Republic
Led by: Sasha Vakulina, Business Editor, Euronews, Lyon
Although the Covid-19 recovery package agreed last year is a good tool to aid economic reboot, it is necessary to say it is not a permanent measure and the emphasis lies in structural reforms. H.E. Sebastian Kurz, Chancellor of the Republic of Austria expressed he would prefer if there was more discussion on where and how we invest the funds rather than how much to invest. The focus should be on green transition and digitization. These two categories make up about 90% of Austria’s plan.
Prime Minister of Slovakia Eduard Heger appreciated the design of the recovery package which is rooted in reforms that bring in public finance and praised the mechanism of releasing the recovery funds which depends on reaching milestones set up by individual countries. It is important to not spend the money but invest it. Chancellor Kurz agreed that structural reforms are key and member states should not fear more control in that regard.
The panel shared the vision and importance of solidarity of the EU. While H.E. Heger highlighted the importance of foreign policy and helping countries outside the EU, Chancellor Kurz stressed that the basis for solidarity, public investments and higher social standards is competitiveness and economic growth.
“Solidarity is only possible if all 27 member states on their own and united are successful.” - Chancellor Kurz
All panellists agreed that solidarity and economic growth go hand in hand.
Karel Havlicek, the deputy Prime Minister for the Czech Republic, stated the importance of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) for Central Europe and explained that the Czech Republic set up new priorities of investing in research and development as well publishing its innovation strategy. The focus is on becoming an innovative country with long-term growth. Support from the EU is needed to reduce emissions as both the heating and electricity sectors are heavily dependent on coal which represents a huge challenge.
The best support for our economies at the moment is to continue with a strong vaccination campaign which will be the ultimate defeat of the pandemic. Although the pandemic hit all member states hard and resulted in the loss of lives and jobs, we are in a much better position to deal with future waves and keep moving forward and improving the quality of life in Europe.
“We are not just restarting the economy but also the society” - Karel Havlicek