Institutional Affairs

Bolkestein accuses Commission of over-regulating

13.10.03 @ 09:25

  1. By Mark Beunderman

Frits Bolkestein, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, is demanding stronger safeguards in the EU Constitution against his own institution's "tendency to over regulate".

In a highly critical interview with the Dutch newspaper, NRC Handelsblad, the Dutch Commissioner argues for stronger competences for national parliaments to block excessive Commission legislation.

He stated: "National parliaments should not only be able to show a yellow card to call back the Commission, as is proposed in the Draft Constitution. They should also be able to show a red card, so the Commission can be blocked in its tendency to over regulate".

Mr Bolkestein added: "The Commission will never accept this, but somehow a brake system has to be built into the Constitution".

Few allies

In the interview, Mr Bolkestein said that he has few allies among his fellow Commissioners who support his view on the over regulation fetish of the Commission.

When asked whether Commission Presdident Romano Prodi agrees to his claim that the institution is too meddlesome, Mr Bolkestein responded diplomatically: "As a whole board we have to be more alert on this".

He referred to the result of the recent Swedish referendum on the euro as an additional argument. "We have just got an analysis of the Swedish 'no' against the euro at our disposal. One reason why the Swedes voted against the euro was their feeling that the Commission interferes too much in Swedish affairs".

Despite his harsh criticism on his own institution, Mr Bolkestein indicated that he wishes to serve a second term as European Commissioner.

Available for second term

The 70 year old Commissioner characterised the European project in general as "hugely successful". "I want to contribute to this. I am absolutely available for a second term".

Mr Bolkestein also expressed his scepticism about the idea of an EU Foreign Minister, as proposed in the Draft EU Constitution.

In his view, a common EU foreign policy would be dependent on the will of the member states, not on the creation of another EU political post.

Using the Iraq conflict as an example, Mr Bolkestein stated: "Do you really think that Chirac, or Schröder, (...) or Blair would have said different things if Europe had had a Foreign Minister? Those are illusions".

Small countries surrender

The Commissioner also blamed the Dutch government and those of other small countries for taking a weak stance on two crucial issues in the Constitution: The introduction of Commissioners without voting rights and the creation of an EU president.

He characterised a Commissioner without voting rights as a castrate. A permanent EU presidency with its own building and staff would mean a new bureaucratic complex.

According to the Commissioner, the Netherlands should use the possibility of their veto more consciously.

"In many cases, unanimity is compulsory. But small countries often capitulate, and the Netherlands is an example of this. We regularly enter negotiations with a very strong, fundamental position, of which nothing remains in the end. The Netherlands was against a European president, and it already abandoned this position. The Netherlands favoured a [full] Commissioner for every member state, and it also gave this up".

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