Katainen Says ‘Naming and Shaming’ Needed for EU Policy to Work

European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said countries need to be publicly called out when they don’t live up to common rules.

“Naming and shaming” is “a good tool and we shouldn’t be too modest to use it,” Katainen said in Brussels Wednesday. “It’s not a negative tool.”

Peer pressure is one of the main ways the 28-nation European Union can make sure that countries implement the bloc’s rules, the former Finnish prime minister said. Too often the EU’s single market doesn’t exist in real life because countries adjust at different speeds, he said.

Under President Jean-Claude Juncker, the Brussels-based commission is trying to streamline and strengthen its policy role. The effort has been fragmented so far, as countries have tussled over a proposed 315 billion-euro ($357 billion) investment plan and split over how to react to Ukraine.

“We are in a situation where we just have to believe in something” and “go ahead fast and do things and accept that everything is not perfect,” Katainen said at a Centre for European Policy Studies event.

Greek voters on Sunday propelled Syriza’s Alexis Tsipras into the prime minister’s job in a wave of frustration against EU-imposed austerity. From Spain to Finland to the U.K., politicians facing elections now must contend with voter frustration and economic discontent.

Katainen said the EU shouldn’t shy away from new proposals just because they will be politically difficult. “The easy things have already been done; there are only difficult things left,” he said.

Single Market

In coming months, the commission will put forward plans on energy, capital markets and the digital economy, areas that often overlap. For example, Katainen said policy makers are frustrated that consumers can buy a necktie from Paris with an Estonian credit card, but not subscribe to television channels that require different payment methods and can only be viewed in France.

“Populists are giving simple answers to complicated questions,” Katainen said. When a messy problem has a seemingly straightforward solution, he said, that conclusion is “most probably wrong.”

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