Friday

18th Jan 2019

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).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • 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.

MEPs redouble appeal on sexual harassment

The EU parliament's internal chiefs have so far refused to introduce mandatory training on dealing with sexual harassment. MEPs have now asked for it again.

Centre-right MEPs want transparency vote to be secret

A number of centre-right MEPs are pushing for a secret ballot on a plenary vote that would make EU lawmakers more transparent and accountable to the public - in a move described as "absurd" by Transparency International.

News in Brief

  1. EU trade commissioner asks for green light for US talks
  2. Slovakia's commissioner takes unpaid leave to run for presidency
  3. Minority elects Lofven as prime minister of Sweden
  4. Putin opposes EU prospects of Serbia and Kosovo
  5. Tsipras launches campaign to ratify Macedonia deal
  6. US-EU meeting in doubt after Trump cancels plane
  7. Germany and China to sign pact on finance cooperation
  8. Labour divided on second Brexit vote plan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Germany led way on EU human rights protection
  2. How to troll the European Parliament elections
  3. MEPs in Strasbourg: everywhere but the plenary
  4. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  5. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  6. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  7. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  8. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us