Many European leaders have recently suggested that the Continent is on the road to economic recovery. EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger, however, says the bloc is in a "truly abysmal state" and that France, in particular, needs reform.
The European Union has done its best lately to exude optimism about its efforts to emerge from the ongoing euro crisis. Not only have important steps been made, say EU leaders, but increased political and economic integration mean that the future of the bloc is bright.
European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, however, would beg to differ. Oettinger, Germany's representative on the EU's executive body, held a speech on Tuesday at the German-Belgian-Luxembourgian Chamber of Commerce in which he outlined what he sees as the EU's shortcomings.
"Europe is in dire need of an overhaul," he said, according to the German tabloid Bild. But Brussels, he continued, "still hasn't recognized its truly abysmal state."
The commissioner reserved most of his bile for France, identifying it as a principal point of concern and saying that it "is not prepared at all for that which is necessary." Specifically, he said that the country needs to undertake a far-reaching "pension reform, which in truth means pension cuts." In addition, he demanded that the retirement age be raised and that the number of public servants be slashed. He added that the country has "little innovation."
It is not the first time that Oettinger has given public vent to his frustrations regarding the EU's path. In an April interview with the Cologne daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, he said the EU crisis wouldn't be over for another decade and that, despite comments from European Commission President José Manuel Barroso about austerity having reached its limits, Europe must continue to save.
"In the coming years, we can't offer services in the form of pensions, smaller class sizes, greater police presence, fewer potholes and other benefits" at the level we have until now, he said.
© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2013
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with permission