Paulina Dejmek is responsible for financial services and a member of the Cabinet of EU Commissioner Michael Barnier. During the Swedish EU Presidency in 2009, Paulina was seconded to the Swedish Permanent Representation as financial attaché.
Paulina is a Swedish and Czech citizen, she holds a Master of Laws degree from the University of Lund, Sweden, and a PhD from the University of Heidelberg
WIL Europe: You have been working for the European Commission for almost 10 years, and prior to this you worked at the EFTA Surveillance Authority. What was your motivation to work at an international level in Europe?
Paulina Dejmek-Hack (PDH): The interest in European issues is something that came quite naturally to me. Being a citizen of both Sweden and the Czech Republic, I always felt European rather than affiliated to one specific country. The fact of pursuing studies in two European countries, Sweden and Germany, built my awareness of the European identity and cause. At the beginning of my career, I was not too knowledgeable about how Europe worked in practice, but an internship at the European Commission in 2001 granted me a first insight into the work of the European institutions. This experience made me realise that I wanted to pursue my career in the European environment. At that point, I decided to stay in Brussels and participate in the written and oral tests to become an EU civil servant. I have never regretted that choice. What makes this work so rewarding is the permanent balancing of interests, trying to serve the general European public interest and the fact of working with international colleagues, all bringing different points of views.
WIL: As an employee at the European Commission as well as a European citizen, what do you consider the most beneficial asset of the European Single Market?
PDH: I believe that the free movement is where the European Single Market is at its very best. The free movement of capital, individuals, services and goods is a great advantage for all European citizens. Notably the free movement of people, the right to study, work and travel without having to comply with visa requirements or follow burdensome administrative procedures is a fantastic advantage of the single market. It is also something that I believe is truly unique in the international context: No other regional cooperation across the globe is even close to disposing of an internal market without borders between 28 countries.
WIL: What positive impacts does the free movement have on Europe?
PDH: For the citizens, it is the freedom to be able to choose to study, work, or travel wherever they want in the European Union. But also for companies the European Single Market brings interesting opportunities. Companies can sell their products cross- border, provide services in and out of a member state without much restrictions. Of course some national rules remain, for example as regards taxes and social legislation, but the general principle of free movement within the European member states is there – for the EU’s 22 million companies and approximately 500 million consumers.
WIL: In your opinion, what impact does the European Single Market have on the European financial sector?
PDH: It has an absolutely crucial impact on the financial sector. If we look back in history, it all started thirty years ago with the introduction of the principle of single licence and home-state control. This principle implies that a financial service operator is licensed and supervised in one EU Member State (its home Member State) and is then allowed to provide its services throughout the European Union. If we look at the grand names in the European financial sector, many of them operate in several European member states – just think about names like BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, Generali, AXA and many others. The internal market allows for useful economies of scale and more possibilities to reach out to potential customers. The consumers on the other side benefit from a wider choice and lower prices.
WIL: Having considerable expertise in the European financial services and financial market, what instruments of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) that entered into force on September 19 2012 do you regard as most crucial and efficient?
PDH: The ESM is one important element in re-establishing the confidence in the Euro-zone following the global financial crisis that evolved into a debt crisis in certain countries. The ESM is one piece of the puzzle. However, it has to be seen together with the important reforms that are undertaken to strengthen and improve the economic governance of the Euro-zone. Another fundamental part of this reform package consists of the financial sector legislation which we are in the process of implementing in Europe, rendering banks and other financial institutions much more solid, stable and less susceptible to crisis.
WIL: As we all know, the financial crisis has been cause of economic erosion in Europe and all over the world. In the aftermath of the crisis, many citizens felt insecure, which also affected the image of the European Union. How do you view this and do you see remedies for such issues?
PDH: It is true that we see tendencies all over Europe that citizens feel far away from national politicians and even further away from the European level and the decision-making process in Brussels. What I think has to be our priority now is to rebuild the confidence in the financial sector. This is what the Commission has tried to accomplish in recent years by proposing new, stronger rules for banks, for hedge funds, for credit rating agencies, insurance companies and many other actors. These rules are now largely agreed and in force. Of course, what people care about is not financial regulation but growth and jobs. However, in order to start the growth-generating process, we need a stable economic environment in Europe, creating that stability which companies need to expand and create jobs and consumers need to invest and consume.
WIL: What do you think the future of the financial service sector will look like, given that economic crisis and the 2014 European Parliament elections and change of the European Commission?
PDH: We are at a point where we see some positive signs of recovery, including in Southern Europe. Nevertheless, the general situation remains fragile and the path to recovery is not straight forward. What is important now is to continue with the reforms that have already been started. Of course, I cannot in any way pre-empt the choices and policy orientations of the incoming European Parliament and the next European Commission. However, as far as financial services are concerned, I think some efforts will be put on the enforcement of the new legal framework and the correct implementation of the new rules on the ground. Making sure that there is legal certainty and continuity for all the players in the market will contribute to European stability and prosperity in the longer term.