EU financial crisis is under control: sefcovic
By Kim Se-jeong
A high-ranking European Commission official was in Seoul Wednesday and Thursday to assure Seoul that European Union (EU) has a grip on the economic crisis there and that the region will soon emerge stronger from it with "European solutions."
Maros Sefcovic said he met with Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik Wednesday to assure him that the EU is in control of what financial markets and governments in East Asia and beyond see as an ever-worsening economic crisis.
"The last point we discussed is the reassurance from the EU side that we are responsible people. We are fully aware of the importance of the European economy for global development," said Sefcovic, one of seven vice-presidents at the 27-member European Commission, Europe's main governing body.
"We always manage to get out of the crisis stronger. This will be something that will happen this time as well," he said in a lecture titled "EU Lessons Learnt from the Economic Crisis" at Yonsei University in Seoul.
"The EU is like a family, sometimes it's an Italian style family, but a family nonetheless."
Europe's economic woes began with a sovereign debt crisis back in 2010, when European finance minister introduced a massive $1 trillion rescue package for troubled banks in Greece and elsewhere. With the help came demands for equally massive fiscal belt-tightening on government budgets.
Now, it seems the fiscal austerity has caused economies to shrink which, in turn, led to catastrophic unemployment and economic malaise throughout Europe.
Elections in over a dozen countries in Europe saw whole rejection of those austerity measures and a willingness to give growth-oriented policies a chance.
Sefcovic is on a three-nation East Asian tour to assure officials in China, Korea and Singapore that Europe can do both: prevent government overspending, which caused the crisis in the first place, from returning and implement growth-oriented measures that can jump start listless European economies.
Britain fell into a double dip recession in the first quarter of this year for the first time since the 1970s in large part due to its harsh policy of fiscal austerity.
"The fact is with the new commission our priority is to build the EU on the principle of smart and inclusive growth. We integrated this into our new EU 2020 strategy," Sefcovic said in front of a packed audience of graduate students and foreign dignitaries and diplomats, including EU Ambassador to Korea Thomas Kozlowski.
Sefcovic said that he also came to Korea to affirm Europe's "appreciation" of how well the FTA is working, saying bilateral trade increased 11 percent over the last year.
The EU-Korea FTA has not yet been in effect for a year, coming into force in July 2011.
He hailed a recent framework agreement signed between Europe and Korea which enlarges cooperation in the fields of green growth, climate change, regional security, and the coordination of positions at G20 summits.
Sefcovic also acclaimed Korea's emergence as a global player.
"We are impressed by the global role and responsibility Korea is taking on, hosting the EU-Korea summit, Nuclear Security Summit, its leadership in human rights, development rights, and the fact that it is the first Asian nation to enact an emission trading scheme."
The Yonsei-SERI Centre, a think tank supporting EU-related research and outreach activities, hosted the lecture, the first of which was in 2009 with support from the European Commission.