On 25 March the European Council adopted a package of measures to respond to the crisis, preserve financial stability and lay the ground for sustainable job creating growth. The euro area Heads of State or Government also adopted the euro plus pact to complement these measures to further strengthen the economic pillar of EMU and achieve a new quality of economic policy co-ordination, with the objective of improving competitiveness and thereby leading to a higher degree of convergence. Bulgaria, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania joined all of the euro area member states in adopting the pact.
The primary focus of the euro plus pact is on areas that fall under national competence and which are of key importance in increasing competitiveness and avoiding harmful imbalances. As pointed out by the European Council, competitiveness is essential to help the European Union grow faster and more sustainably to produce higher levels of income for its citizens and preserve member states' social models. The pact rests on four guiding rules. First, it will be in line with and strengthen the existing economic governance in the Union, while providing added value. Second, it will be focused and action-oriented and will cover priority policy areas that are essential for fostering competitiveness and convergence and concentrate on actions where the competence lies with the member states. Third, each year concrete national commitments will be undertaken by each Head of State or Government and progress will be monitored on a yearly basis. Fourth, the pact will fully respect the integrity of the Single Market.
In practical terms, the central element of the pact is that every year each member state will be responsible for choosing the specific policy actions that it considers are necessary to achieve the goals of fostering competitiveness, fostering employment, contributing further to the sustainability of public finances and reinforcing financial stability.
The euro plus pact is a positive development for the European Union and Ireland. We are a member of the European Union, particularly the euro area, and benefit significantly from such membership in many ways. The Union and Ireland will benefit further from co-ordinated efforts to improve competitiveness and sustainable economic and employment growth. While encouraging best practice and benchmarking, the pact is predicated on each member state taking ownership of and responsibility for its commitments and presenting the specific measures it will take to achieve the goals I have outlined. That is a sensible way to proceed and will benefit us all in the future.