• ‘Self-flagellation’ of the past a blot on EU economic history
  • EU nations had cut public spending, infrastructure projects

The European Union has turned a corner from a long spell of belt-tightening and is ready to invest in public services again, Maltese Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said.

“The austerity programs are history,” Scicluna said in an interview at a meeting of EU finance ministers in Bratislava, Slovakia. “The sheer self-flagellation undertaken unanimously by all EU member states will remain a blot on our economic history books.”

Since the start of the decade, euro-area governments have forced through billions of euros of cuts in public spending and infrastructure projects as they tried to slash budget deficits after Greece’s debt mountain spooked investors and sent panic throughout the bloc.

From 2009 to 2015, the currency area reduced its deficit from 6.3 percent of gross domestic product to 2.1 percent. Over the same period however, debt has increased: from 78.3 percent of GDP to 90.7 percent.

Scicluna’s remarks follow a gathering of the leaders of the euro area’s southern nations on Friday during which they demanded less austerity and more money, complaining they suffered the most from the influx of immigrants, high unemployment and brain drain.

Their common demand is for a doubling of an EU investment plan that at the moment stands at 315 billion euros ($354 billion) over a space of three years and “more ambitious initiatives” for jobs for young people.

That demand shows that European countries “have changed tact toward investment and growth,” Scicluna said.

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