European Parliament Conference of Committee Chairs


Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General

Strasbourg, Tuesday 15th February 2011

Committee Chairs, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am very pleased to be with you today. Thank you, Mr. Lehne, for your kind invitation and for the opportunity to exchange views on the common challenges we face.

The OECD and the European Parliament can greatly benefit from sharing knowledge and joining forces to address common priorities. This is even more important today, as we are drawing the lessons from the economic, financial and social crisis and mapping a path to more sustainable and equitable growth the future. 

Our strategic partnership has been developing over the years through constructive discussions and was recently reaffirmed in a meeting with the President of the European Parliament, Mr. Jerzy Buzek.
There is much we can do together going forward. 

Informing policy debates

The OECD is known for its public policy proposals and initiatives to improve people’s lives. OECD work encompasses nearly all areas of public policies, from the fight against corruption and tax havens to biotechnology; from health to competition; from renewable energy to migration, international trade, innovation or corporate governance. In all these areas we measure, we analyse and forecast, we compare, and we set standards and best practices.

The OECD can inform European Parliament decisions by sharing data, comparative information and experience, including in identifying best practices and assessing regulatory impact.

In these challenging economic times, we also hope to benefit from your insights and perspectives in order to remain relevant and establish a more solid connection between public policy and the people for which policy is made.

Membership of 34, but a global reach

Today, the OECD is an organisation of 34 countries. Last year, we welcomed four new members -- Chile, Estonia, Israel and Slovenia. Russia is on track to become our 35th member.

But we work with a number of other countries from the major emerging economies, as well as countries in the Middle East and North Africa, in Latin America or in South East Asia.

This means that the OECD serves as a forum to compare experiences and learn from each other in an open, inclusive and increasingly global organisation. Take for example our PISA studies (Programme for International Student Assessment). More than 60 economies participated in our latest assessment, enabling them to chart progress and compare pathways to success in different countries and regions.

Wide ranging policy experience and focus on emerging issues

The European Parliament and the OECD both act as catalysts of change in many common policy areas. We can build on our shared commitment to higher policy standards and co-operate in many fields in the interests of a stronger, cleaner and fairer world economy.

Let me provide a few examples of recent or on-going OECD work, which could support current European initiatives and objectives.

The structural reforms agenda
The best way to reinforce the recovery and strengthen long-term economic growth is to accelerate the pace of structural reforms. The OECD assists G20 leaders by making the case for reform in almost all strands of G20 work, including framework for growth, development, anti-corruption, labour, open markets for investment and trade, taxation, fossil fuel subsidies. These issues are central to the agenda of the European Parliament as well.

The stakes are now high: resolving the European sovereign debt crisis is a common concern. We recently launched our Economic Survey of the Euro Area 2010, which proposes a cross‐cutting approach to making the euro area more robust on the basis of sound fiscal policy, stronger financial regulation, and labour and product market reforms. Our annual report Going for Growth, taking stock of progress in implementing structural reforms has identified additional fields in which Europe can improve its performance.

All these challenges stress the importance of applying a holistic approach to reforms. This brings me to the “Europe 2020” initiative, “aiming to make the European Union a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy”. This strategy has links with many key areas of OECD work. They range from the digital economy and innovation to a low-carbon economy, from industrial policy to skills, jobs, and social cohesion.

Innovation and new sources of growth
To avoid a jobless recovery, governments and markets need to explore new sources of growth. The OECD Innovation Strategy provides a broad strategic and conceptual framework for the ongoing OECD work on innovation and its initiatives at the national level. The OECD, like the EU, believes that broadband is of high importance in supporting innovation. We are also committed to bridging the digital divide by supporting efforts to achieve universal broadband access.

Innovation is also critical in supporting a greener growth. This is not only an environmental imperative; it bears the potential to contribute to better economic performance with new innovative technologies, more efficient productions methods with more sustainable value chains and new green jobs. The Green Growth Strategy, which the OECD will deliver at the Council Meeting at Ministerial Level in May, will elaborate specific tools and recommendations to help governments to achieve the most efficient shift to greener growth.

Social policies
Our social policy agendas are focusing on the common concerns of employment, especially for the youth, pensions, health and gender equality.

European countries, as many other OECD economies, are struggling to get their youngsters out of unemployment. Our recent report Off to a Good Start: Jobs for Youth puts forward a number of actions to help the insertion of youth into the labour market.

On pensions, we are joining forces with the European Commission for the preparation of a joint report on Coverage and benefits of private pension arrangements that examines the private pension system’s ability to improve benefit adequacy and security in old age (it will be available by the end of June 2011).

On health, we participate in the EU Expert Group on Social Determinants and Health Inequalities and beyond inequalities, we also analyse the economics of prevention, with a particular focus on obesity.
We are also ready to explore synergies with the Parliament in advancing with the OECD gender initiative, which focuses on what we call “the three Es” – education, employment and entrepreneurship. As part of this initiative, the OECD is carrying out analysis of the particular barriers that persist for women SME owners.

Measuring progress and improving governance
To advance our social policy agenda and support a new paradigm for growth and in the aftermath of the crisis, we need a better set of measurements. Not surprisingly, the European Parliament is discussing proposals for new social, economic and environmental indicators -- beyond GDP. We are already co-operating in this field within our Global Project “Measuring the Progress of Societies”. A key up-coming element of its work will be a report (tentatively called How’s Life), providing a comparative perspective on people’s living conditions, average outcomes and inequalities across and within countries, based on objective measures and subjective information. An on-line interactive instrument – My Better Life Index -- will be presented at our anniversary MCM.

The availability of new indicators is central in promoting good governance and the improvement of democratic processes. Good governance is closely linked to the regulatory quality. The European Union has been constantly improving its system of regulatory impact assessments, as a critical process for structuring and supporting the development of policies. We are ready to explore synergies with OECD instruments, data and analysis, which can usefully support your work.

A more systematic engagement at Committee level

Let me discuss ways in which members of the European Parliament can tap into the OECD experience and instruments through a more systematic engagement at Committee level.

If you would find this helpful, I would be honoured to make regular contributions to, for example, the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs.

We would also suggest a systematic exchange of Committees with relevant OECD Directorates. You might want to consider drawing on OECD expertise at your Committee hearings.  And an annual exchange of views could be organised as special sessions at the OECD or in Brussels or Strasbourg, for example.

We also hope you will be able to attend our regular High-level Parliamentary Seminars, which are an opportunity for national Members of Parliament and Members of the European Parliament to discuss key policy challenges with OECD experts.

Finally, we are setting up an OECD Parliamentary Network and hope the strengthened partnership with the European Parliament will form part of this initiative.

Ladies and Gentlemen:
For over 50 years, the OECD has provided fact-based analysis and policy advice to help governments improve the lives of their citizens. Reaching out to key stakeholders, such as the Members of the European Parliament, is an important way to ensure that we serve this purpose well.
You can count on us to help you in any way we can to improve the lives of Europeans.


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