Tuesday

6th Dec 2022

Mixed centre-left response on need for EU referendums

As the full scope of the deal reached at the EU summit at the end of last week begins to sink in, centre-left politicians in a number of key member states are of mixed opinions about the agreement, suggesting that endorsements by parliaments will not be an easy task

On Sunday, the French budget minister called for national unity over the issue and warned the opposition Socialists not to delay the legislation required to transpose the EU fiscal deal.

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  • Book on stand at socialist congress in Brussels in late November (Photo: pes.org)

"France has to set the example. It has been at the origin of this treaty with Germany and it would be a paradox if it was blocked for three months because there is a presidential election,” the minister, Valerie Pecresse, told Europe One radio. “This is a call for national unity."

As the country heads into presidential elections next year, the Socialist Party’s candidate, Francois Hollande, has made clear he does not support the imposition of a balanced budget amendment to the constitution.

For such a change, which requires a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, the governing UMP will need the support of the centre-left.

"We need to ratify this accord as quickly as possible," Pecresse said, emphasising that speed is of the essence.

"Can you imagine a European treaty that is ready in March, then a May election and a Socialist party that isolates itself from other European socialist parties saying it refused to adopt it because there is a presidential election?"

Meanwhile in Ireland, Hollande’s ideological counterpart, the head of the Labour Party, Eamon Gilmore, sits in a coalition government that has signed up to the new deal.

For his part, on the weekend, he said that Dublin will hold a referendum if this is needed, but that it is too early to say whether this is the case.

"The issue here isn't about whether we have a referendum or not, the first priority is that we take the steps that are necessary to secure the euro," Gilmore told RTE Radio. "If in certain circumstances that requires a referendum, then we'll we have a referendum."

The government needs further legal analysis to assess whether the deal can escape the need for such a plebiscite, he said.

However, in a hint at the possible line the government could take should it decide against a referendum, he noted that the fiscal compact was contained in an intergovernmental agreement rather than via a change to the EU treaties.

In Romania, the opposition Social-Liberal Union, an alliance of centre-left, liberal and centre-right parties, have said a referendum may not be necessary.

The head of the Social Democrats in the alliance, Victor Ponta, has said that the balanced budget ‘golden rule’ should be adopted by special legislation rather than a constitutional amendment, as it can be adopted more quickly.

But Adrian Nastase, a former prime minister of Romania, said on Sunday that amending the constitution would be difficult in terms of obtaining the vote of two thirds in both houses and could require a referendum to give a popular mandate to such a fundamental change.

In the Netherlands, which in 2005 saw the No side win a referendum on the EU Constitutional Treaty, the coalition government depends on the opposition Labour Party for support on EU questions, as its hard-right allies in the Freedom Party (PVV) remain stridently eurosceptic.

Labour MP Ronald Plasterk described the summit deal as “bizarre”, but that it is too early to say whether elections or a referendum would be necessary in the country.

Only when more detail emerges about the scale of a transfer of powers to Brussels will the party take a position on giving voters a say, he added.

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