Juncker says age of austerity not over - budget discipline needed
AUSTERITY and budget discipline must be maintained in Europe, European Commission president-elect Jean-Claude Juncker has declared.
Mr Juncker - who was backed by German chancellor Angela Merkel for the top European job - said anybody who believes that budget austerity is finished is wrong.
And he also claimed that while he was a fan of tax competition, he would make sure that corporate taxation is based on a "harmonised tax base'', so that profits are taxed where they were made.
Mr Juncker, who headed the euro group of finance ministers at the height of the crisis in the single currency, told a parliamentary hearing yesterday that "we need to keep austerity going''.
"I'm against excessive austerity, but budget discipline, yes,'' he told the Alliance for Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) grouping at a hearing in Brussels.
Italy, which has assumed the rotating six-month presidency of the EU, has called for greater flexibility on the interpretation of the so-called Stability and Growth Pact to help bolster growth, particularly in the Mediterranean country.
Italian economy minister Pier Carlo Padoan, chairing a meeting of European finance ministers prior to the hearing, said Europe was exiting the great recession at a slow speed and in an uneven pattern.
He said growth efforts must be refocused under existing fiscal rules after outlining the key priorities of Italy's six-month presidency of the European Union.
But Germany warned European countries against easing up on their budgets, claiming structural reforms were not a replacement for consolidation.
Separately, Mr Juncker also told the hearing that he was against unfair tax competition in any sector of the economy.
"We will make sure that corporate taxation is based on a harmonised tax base so that profits are taxed where they were made and everything will be done properly.
''I say yes to tax competition, but not to unfair tax competition in any sector of the economy,'' he said.
Mr Juncker is being questioned by European Parliament political groups this week ahead of the parliament vote on his candidacy later this month. In order to secure the presidency, the former Luxembourg prime minister must win the votes of a majority of members within the parliament at the July plenary vote, due next week.