Tuesday

25th Jul 2017

Parliament wants equal powers over EU economic governance

Warning that the "democratic credibility" of the EU has been damaged in the eyes of citizens as economic integration proceeds apace with little input from ordinary people, the European Parliament has demanded that it be given equal powers to the other EU institutions over national budgetary control.

"The democratic credibility of European integration has suffered enormously from the manner in which the euro crisis has been dealt with to date," reads a strongly worded resolution passed with a strong majority in the chamber on Thursday (1 December).

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.

  • Strasbourg: The parliament is worried that economic policy making is being cut off from democratic accountability (Photo: Architecture Studio)

The steady accretion of powers over national budget-making by unelected European actors has been criticised by a number of commentators as putting the interests of the markets ahead of democratic decision-making. Eyebrows have also been raised over the installation of technocratic governments in Greece and Italy.

The EU parliament now seems to be increasingly of a similar opinion, even on the right of the chamber, which gave its strong endorsement to the resolution drafted by French Socialist Pervenche Beres, who criticised "unilateral action" by EU actors involved in the crisis response.

"The lack of transparency in decision-making and opinion forming processes, particularly in the European Council and the Council of Ministers, is undermining citizens’ trust in European integration and the democracies of the European Union and is hindering the exercise of active, constructive control by citizens," continued the declaration, backed in the house by 501 to 106.

"Parliamentary debate on economic policy guidelines is the cornerstone of any democratic system."

"EU economic policy coordination will work only if it becomes more democratic and less technocratic," read a statement following the vote.

While the house has no power to impose its will in this area, the scale of the cross-chamber support for the ideas shows that the parliament has decided to stake out its claim for a decisive role in the construction of European economic union ahead of any discussion of treaty changes.

The key demand of the parliament is to be given what is called "co-decision" - equal powers with the Council of Ministers, which represents the member states - in approving the commission's oversight of national budgets.

"The commission is not elected, yet it is able to intervene in national budgets even before a national parliament has seen it. Where is the democratic control?" said Solange Helin Villes, spokesman for the Socialists and Democrats in the parliament.

MEPs expect to win this battle, saying that there is already a strong precedent in this area with the chamber's co-decision powers over the EU budget.

The commission for its part said that democratic input is necessary but that the parliament already has been awarded a larger role in the process.

Deeper integration of economic policy making requires "enhancing the democratic scrutiny of decision-making at the EU level, both by national Parliaments and the European Parliament," economic and monetary affairs spokesman Amadeu Altafaj-Tardio told EUobserver.

"[Legislation that] will soon enter into force has already considerably reinforced the role of the European Parliament, precisely to address concerns of transparency and democratic accountability of the type to which Madame Beres refers," he said, referring to a new 'economic dialogue' under which the economy commissioner, the president of the European Council and the head of the eurogroup as well as finance ministers of member states can be grilled by the parliament.

An EU finance minister

A second resolution called for the creation of a European finance minster and the establishment of a EU Treasury in the medium term. Finance ministers at the national level are normally responsible for the drafting the of budgets, taxation and economic policy.

Again, the chamber said that the finance minister should be made "democratically accountable to the parliament."

However, what this means precisely remains open.

The term "finance minister" normally describes an office inhabited by an individual drawn from a parliament, but the chamber is not so bold as to suggest that an EU finance minister be an MEP.

According to those close to the parliament's conception of what it would like to see, the minister could be drawn from the commission so long as the chamber was able to vet his or her work. 


Whether this individual could be dismissed by a vote of no confidence in the parliament, or could only be dismissed along with the whole of the commission "will be fleshed out later on," said one official.

Rehn to get increased economic powers

EU monetary affairs commissioner Olli Rehn is to be given extra powers to supervise national fiscal policies, as the commission moves quickly to centralise economic governance powers in Brussels.

Investigation

Inside the Code of Conduct, the EU's most secretive group

The informal group of national officials that is in charge of checking EU countries' tax laws is now working on the first EU blacklist of tax havens, amid critiques over its lack of transparency and accountability.

Ombudsman asks for more details on Barroso case

Emily O'Reilly has asked the EU Commission to say what former commissioners should be allowed to do after they leave office and explain why it took no decision over its former president's controversial new job.

Investigation

Inside the Code of Conduct, the EU's most secretive group

The informal group of national officials that is in charge of checking EU countries' tax laws is now working on the first EU blacklist of tax havens, amid critiques over its lack of transparency and accountability.

Ombudsman asks for more details on Barroso case

Emily O'Reilly has asked the EU Commission to say what former commissioners should be allowed to do after they leave office and explain why it took no decision over its former president's controversial new job.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  3. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  4. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  5. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  6. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  7. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  8. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  10. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  11. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  12. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way

Latest News

  1. US votes on sanctions against EU firms in Russia project
  2. Journalists on trial highlights Turkey's crackdown
  3. EU to give research tips on dual food quality
  4. Polish president's veto leaves uncertainties over next move
  5. EU Commission unmoved by Polish president's veto
  6. UK presses the Brexit pause button
  7. German car cartel case may take long time to prove
  8. Stronger EU-Egypt ties must not disregard human rights

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  2. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School
  3. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead
  5. EU2017EEPM Ratas: EU Is Not Only an Idea for the 500mn People in the Bloc, It Is Their Daily Reality
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCloser Energy Co-Operation Keeps Nordic Region on Top in Green Energy
  7. ILGA-EuropeGermany Finally Says Ja - Bundestag Votes for Marriage Equality!
  8. EPSUJapanese and European Public Sector Unions Slam JEFTA
  9. World VisionEU, Young Leaders and Civil Society Join Forces to End Violence Against Girls
  10. UNICEFNarrowing the Gaps: The Power of Investing in the Health of the Poorest Children
  11. EU2017EEEstonia to Surprise Europe With Unique Cultural Programme
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Talks Should Insist on Ending Reprisals Vs. Critical Voices