Saturday

23rd Sep 2017

Brussels' new budget powers draw first rebuke

  • Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo (c) - the commission's warning was a rude awakening for his new government (Photo: fotospresidencia5)

The European Commission's sweeping new powers in budgetary oversight drew its first criticism on Thursday (12 January), when a Belgian minister said the EU institution lacks the democratic legitimacy to alter national spending plans.

"The commission is today going too far with its measures. Who knows [economic affairs commissioner] Olli Rehn? Who knows where he has come from and what he has done? Nobody. Yet he tells us how we should conduct economic policy. Europe has no democratic legitimacy to do that," Belgian enterprise minister Paul Magnette said in an interview with Flemish newspaper De Morgen.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

He said Belgium accepts that it has to get its budget deficit under the three percent of GDP required by euro rules, but "the margin to determine how we do it must remain free."

Philippe Maystadt, also a Belgian and the former head of the European Investment Bank, made similarly critical remarks the day before. He said the commission lacked the legitimacy and efficiency to directly penalise a member state for its budget.

The commission caused a flurry in Belgian political circles over the weekend by warning that the country needed to curb this year's spending. Rehn suggested the government's calculations that the budget deficit for 2012 would be 2.8 percent were too optimistic and asked for a cut of between €1.2 billion and €2 billion.

Belgium eventually settled on freezing €1.3 billion in spending, a move that saw it escape the threat of monetary sanctions on Wednesday (11 January) when the commission assessed the matter.

But the country's run-in was a foretaste of what is to come under the new rules - in place since mid December - designed to stop the eurozone debt crisis from being repeated.

The rules require countries to submit their annual budgets to the commission for review with fines of up to 0.2 percent of GDP for breaches of the deficit limits.

Hungary - a non-euro member - was on Wednesday told it could lose millions of euros in EU funds if it does not toe the budget line.

Although the so-called six-pack of laws went through the ordinary legislative channels in Brussels - with much back and forth between MEPs and member states about the nature of the sanctions system - commission officials and others have long warned that the power of the rules has been underestimated.

Underlining the point earlier this week, Rehn said that this year would see a "profound transformation" in economic governance.

Responding to Magnette's criticism, a commission spokesperson Thursday said: "We held a democratic debate on this with the European Parliament and the 27 governments of the EU, including the Belgian government."

"The European Commission does not have a political agenda when it tries to apply its rules. Its decisions are based on rigorous economic analysis."

Parliament approves economic governance ‘six-pack’

After almost a year since the European Commission first proposed a package of laws radically centralising economic decision-making in the European Union, the legislative process approving the so-called ‘six-pack’ of bills has finally come to an end with the European Parliament giving its assent on Wednesday.

Stronger budgetary surveillance laws up for agreement

Member states are next week set for a first agreement on laws that would strongly increase Brussels' power over eurozone national budgets - but a clause that would have essentially forced a country to take a bailout has been removed.

EU takes time to ponder tech giant tax

The EU commission published a paper that outlined several options on how to increase tax income from internet companies' activities, but fell short of proposing legislation.

EU commission changes gear on trade

The EU executive seeks new deals with Australia and New Zealand, while aiming to overhaul the global investment protection system. It also wants to screen foreign investments.

Investigation

EU bank accused of muzzling watchdog

An ongoing review of the the European Investment Bank's "complaints mechanism" could make the oversight branch less independent and less effective.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch state appeals ban on taking air-polluting measures
  2. May proposes 2-year transition period after Brexit
  3. May to call on EU's 'sense of responsibility'
  4. Catalonia has 'contingency plans' for independence vote
  5. Last German polls confirm Merkel's lead
  6. EU to step up sanctions on North Korea
  7. Tusk calls 'euro summit' in December
  8. Report: May to seek two-year EU transition

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUGermany Stands Ready to Deepen Cooperation With China
  2. World VisionFirst Ever Young People Consultation to Discuss the Much Needed Peace in Europe
  3. European Jewish CongressGermany First Country to Adopt Working Definition of Antisemitism
  4. EU2017EEFour Tax Initiatives to Modernise the EU's Tax System
  5. Dialogue PlatformResponsibility in Practice: Gulen & Islamic Thought
  6. Counter BalanceHuman Rights Concerns Over EIB Loan to the Trans Anatolian Pipeline Project
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina Leads the Global Clean Energy Transition
  8. CES - Silicones EuropeFrom Baking Moulds to Oven Mitts, Silicones Are a Key Ingredient in Kitchens
  9. Martens CentreFor a New Europeanism: How to Put the Motto "Unity in Diversity" Into Practice
  10. Access MBAGet Ahead With an MBA Degree. Top MBA Event in Brussels
  11. Idealist QuarterlyIdealist Quarterly Event: Building Fearless Democracies With Gerald Hensel
  12. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Urges Bigger Global Role for Emerging Economies