5th Feb 2023

EU Commission pushing for narrowest possible treaty

  • EU officials are currently poring over legal texts to get to grips with the new intergovernmental route (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission is pushing to have the narrowest possible treaty to tightening budgetary rules among member states, arguing that most measures can be made using normal EU law-making procedures.

EU officials are still digesting the implications of last week's decision by all member states, except the UK, to pursue an intergovernmental treaty, with the route currently raising more legal and political questions than it answers.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

One of main questions concerns the content of the agreement. Last week's summit agreement is very similar in tone and nature to the so-called six-pack of legislation, centralising budgetary surveillance, which came into force on Tuesday (13 December) and to the further moves announced in that direction by the commission late last month.

“Our legal analysis is that by far the vast majority of measures decided on Friday can be introduced through [EU] legislation,” EU economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn said Monday.

At moment commission officials suggest that only the debt brake rule - requiring countries to have balanced budgets - and making sanctions easier to impose by changing the voting system would need to be in the new intergovernmental text.

“If you want to introduce and implement automatic sanctions, to which there is a reference in the new fiscal compact, it may be that you may require a treaty change for that,” Rehn said.

Speaking to MEPs on Tuesday, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso pledged to make full use of Article 136 in the treaty - governing budgetary surveillance in eurozone countries - to see that most changes are made via the normal process of a commission proposal, which passes approval to parliament and member states.

"It could actually be reasonably limited," one source said, but added it depends how far member states will actually go.

But even where the treaty will be drawn up remains in question. The secretariat of member states - the council - is expected to draw up the legal text, with work to start by the end of the week. A draft may already be on the table by next Tuesday, one diplomat said.

This may then be discussed by the so-called "euro-working group" which consists of eurozone treasury officials as well as a representative from the commission's finance department.

The group would have to be "extended to those who wish to be involved" said a diplomat from one non-euro country.

But the diplomat added: "No one knows the details yet."

There is talk of using the Economic and Financial Committee, which has also includes representatives from the European Central Bank, or the regular meetings of EU ambassadors. However, this is complicated because these are bodies for all 27 member states, when only up to 26 are to be involved.

Ratification questions

One central question will be the ratification process. It remains unclear what will happen if one of the countries rejects the treaty.

Meanwhile, non-euro countries are likely to push to be able to choose during the ratification process which measures would apply from the treaty coming into force and which will follow actual entry into the eurozone.

The commission is also fighting to make sure that it would have the powers to oversee any agreement while the court could enforce it, something of a legal minefield, although commission officials say there is already legal precedent.

Euro-deputies are also looking for a seat at the negotiating table. So far, they have been offered the nebulous term of being "associated" with drawing up the text.

Joseph Daul, leader of the centre-right European People's Party, the largest group in the EU assembly, called for parliament to have its "rightful" role in the process, while his socialist counterpart Martin Schulz said it should be on the same level as the commission and the council.

Governments want the treaty to be signed by the March EU summit at the latest. But much is expected to depend not only on how the legal and political questions are answered but also on what France and Germany expect from the text.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy recently repeated that no new powers should be transferred to EU level. France may be keen to widen the scope of the text to include other issues dear to Paris, but which it only wants dealt with among states.

UK left out as 26 EU countries to draft new treaty

A group of 26 EU member states is to forge ahead with an agreement on tightening economic governance in the eurozone, following a summit in Brussels that saw the UK sidelined after it overplayed its hand. (Updated 1.30pm Friday).

EU leaders embrace 'fiscal compact' demanded by central bank

EU leaders have endorsed a series of rules tightening budget surveillance and institutionalising limits on public spending - the ‘fiscal compact’ that the ECB has demanded before it can more aggressively purchase Italian and Spanish debt.

EU lobby register still riddled with errors

The EU's lobby register remains riddled with errors, with pro-transparency campaigners demanding better data and mandatory rules. The latest findings come amid a raft of proposals by the European Parliament president to weed out corruption in the wake of Qatargate.

Latest News

  1. Greece faces possible court over 'prison-like' EU-funded migration centres
  2. How the centre-right can take on hard-right and win big in 2024
  3. Top EU officials show Ukraine solidarity on risky trip
  4. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  5. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  6. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  7. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  8. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us