6th Dec 2021

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.

Catalan MEPs lose immunity, slam 'political persecution'

Catalan separatist MEPs Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí lost their parliamentary immunity - a result they have hailed as a "political victory" for bringing the conflict between Catalonia and Spain closer to the heart of Europe.

12-month Future EU Conference is 'impossible', expert warns

The debate about the much-delayed Conference on the Future of Europe so far has been locked in endless institutional infighting over who should lead the event - lowering the expectations about what can be achieved in the coming months.

Future of Europe: Nearly half of citizens want reforms

European Parliament president David Sassoli called for the Conference on the Future of Europe "to start as soon as possible". Meanwhile, nearly half of EU citizens would like to see reforms to the bloc.

EU parliament snubs anti-corruption researchers

Transparency International carried out three separate studies on integrity, of the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Council (representing member states). The European Parliament refused to cooperate.

Cyprus: a heavy caseload for new EU prosecutors office

The new European Public Prosecutor's office will become operational in March. It is tasked to carry out criminal fraud investigations of the EU budget. But of the 140 required European delegated prosecutors, only nine have so far set up office.

MEPs chide Portugal and Council in EU prosecutor dispute

The Belgian and Bulgarian prosecutors who were appointed had also not been the experts' first choice. Belgian prosecutor Jean-Michel Verelst has challenged the council's decision at the European Court of Justice.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. Kaczyński and Le Pen make friends at anti-EU 'summit'
  2. Croat police kept handwritten logbook of likely pushbacks
  3. Hungary and Estonia blocking EU tax reform
  4. Biden's democracy summit and gig workers in focus This WEEK
  5. How to 'Europeanise' the upcoming French EU presidency?
  6. Belgium tightens Covid rules as health system 'is cracking'
  7. EU and US tighten screw on Lukashenko
  8. Belgian impasse leaves asylum seekers on snowy streets

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us