5th Feb 2023

Finance ministers in secret plot over constitution

  • An ECOFIN conspiracy? EU finance ministers are said to be plotting to keep their influence in the draft constitution (Photo: European Commission)

Finance ministers are said to be plotting to retain more influence in the proposed European constitution - at the expense of other institutions, according to European media reports.

The group of EU Finance Ministers - known as the ECOFIN council - reached a secret common position on the constitution at an informal meeting in Stresa, Italy, last month, says Der Standard, quoting diplomats.

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

EU sources are quoted as saying, "basically, they want to lessen the role of other institutions in favour of ECOFIN".

Budget and Stability Pact in ECOFIN's sights

There are two main targets for the ECOFIN council, the Stability and Growth Pact - which sets rules for the 12 countries that share the euro - and the EU budget.

The Finance Ministers are said to disagree with the proposal in the constitution that the European Commission could start proceedings against Member States under the Stability Pact without the consent of Finance Ministers.

Currently, the Commission recommends action against a Member State if it breaks the rules of the Stability Pact, the main rule being that euro zone countries have to keep their budget deficits below three percent of GDP. France, Germany and Portugal are all currently in breach of these rules.

But, before any action can be taken, it must be approved by a qualified majority of ECOFIN ministers.

The ministers are said to believe that this must remain the status quo and that the Commission should not be given the power to begin action on its own initiative.

Parliament also in their sights

Finance Ministers are also thought to want to curb the power of the European Parliament in the proposed constitution - especially on budgetary matters.

They want MEPs to have an advisory role when the EU is drawn up, but the draft constitition proposes that the Parliament should have the final say on the spending programmes. Finance ministers also want to keep the need for unanimity on budgetary matters, whereas the draft constitution text proposes that qualified majority voting be used.

Fierce reaction

MEPs reacted furiously to the rumours.

Iñigo Méndez de Vigo, one of the MEPs involved in drafting the constitution, told the Financial Times, "they are trying to destroy our work".

Johannes Voggenhuber, a Green MEP and also a member of the Convention that drew up the constitution, went further, saying that this was "a plot against democracy and the Parliaments in Europe".

The Austrian Finance Ministry emphatically denied the rumours, saying that "not one word of this is true", according to Der Standard.

But the FT claims to have seen a document detailing the Finance Ministers' objections. The document will be discussed by the IGC, which meets today in Brussels.

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