Wednesday

18th Jan 2017

Analysis

Would a eurozone committee enrich the EU parliament?

  • Bowles: MEPs will decide on whether to create a new sub-committee for the eurozone after May's elections (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The European Parliament seems likely to create a new committee specifically for the eurozone when MEPs convene in July for the first meetings of the new legislature.

The idea, set out in a letter from Sharon Bowles, the chair of the Parliament's economic affairs, to the assembly's President, Martin Schulz, is for a new economic and monetary union (EMU) subcommittee, connected to the main committee.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Although the proposal is only a recommendation - albeit one which has the support of the main political groups on the influential economic affairs panel - it has a good chance of being put in practice when the parliament agrees its new structure for the next legislature following May's European elections.

The parliament already has two sub-committees - on human rights, and on security and defence - both of which are linked to the foreign affairs committee. But neither one handles legislation and, importantly, the proposed EMU sub-committee would not have a law-making function either.

Instead, it would have a fairly modest remit focused on providing extra democratic scrutiny - and in so doing relieving some of the time pressure on the main committee - rather than assuming separate legislative power.

The proposal would put the EMU sub-committee in charge of overseeing economic and monetary policy, the functioning of the banking union, and the use of the eurozone bailout fund - the European Stability Mechanism - together with the implementation of the fiscal compact treaty. In practice, this function would boil down to organising hearings.

The idea of having special structures within the parliament just for the eurozone is not a new idea - proposals for a separate eurozone committee were kicking around years before lawmakers' minds turned to thoughts of banking union.

In any case, it is a logical step if you have policy areas where the pace of integration amongst a group of countries is particularly fast. Some would like to go further. German finance minister, Wolfgang Schaueble, is among those to have mooted the long-term prospect of a parliament for the eurozone.

Neither the EU treaty nor the parliament's own rules allow any formal demarcation of whether some MEPs can vote on some issues but not others. Both texts make clear that in legal terms MEPs, like commissioners, do not represent the country that elected them but the entire EU.

Perhaps with this in mind, and to get around any accusations of having first and second class members, the committee proposal would not exclude MEPs from non-eurozone countries from being members.

But the rules do include a clause giving the parliament "sufficient margin of manoeuvre to organise specific forms of differentiation on the basis of political agreement within and among the political groups in order to provide for appropriate scrutiny of the EMU."

As a principle, it is difficult to argue that MEPs from countries which are outside the eurozone and do not intend to join any time in the foreseeable future should be voting on the governance of the single currency.

Although only the UK and Denmark have a treaty exemption from the euro, it is highly unlikely Sweden, the Czech Republic or Poland will join the currency bloc before the end of the decade.

Meanwhile, Romania, Bulgaria and the EU's newest member, Croatia, are many years from being close to having the economic conditions that would allow them to join.

Lithuania, which hopes to join in 2015, is likely to be the only country to join the eurozone in the next legislative cycle.

But it is not just the euro that these countries plan to stay out of.

Most of the non-eurozone countries have indicated that they will not join the banking union when the European Central Bank begins its role as single bank supervisor later this year. Of this group of countries, only Romania is likely to join the banking union.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the plan has already provoked the ire of the UK Conservatives. Syed Kamall, who leads the 27 Conservative MEPs, described the plan as "a case of divide and rule," adding that "to create a separate committee that only euro-zone MEPs may belong to sets a dangerous precedent."

Ironically, politicians voting on matters that do not directly affect their constituents has long been a controversial issue in British politics.

The so-called "West Lothian question," which queries the justification for Scottish MPs being able to vote on matters that only affect English and Welsh people became particularly prominent in the 2005-2010 government of Tony Blair and then Gordon Brown, when Labour was reliant on its dominance in Scotland and Wales for its majority in Westminster. As an issue, it still provokes anger, particularly on the Conservative benches.

There are, of course, other policy areas where countries have opted out or are little affected by the EU.

The UK and Ireland are outside the Schengen passport-free area, while landlocked Austria, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary are hardly affected by the EU's common fisheries and maritime policies.

But the pace of integration within the eurozone has rapidly accelerated in the past five years, and the rapid development of the banking union structure suggests that this pace is unlikely to drop any time soon.

These new structures and rules require more parliamentary scrutiny to hold them accountable. Any institutional changes parliament can make to do this should not be viewed as a threat.

Moldova turns from EU to Russia

Moldova's president said he would like to scrap an EU treaty and has already started preparations to join a Russia-led bloc.

News in Brief

  1. Maltese PM announces plan for Brexit summit
  2. EU needs more Turkey-style migrant deals, Malta PM says
  3. Dutch minister: Don't underestimate risk of hacking
  4. European court rules against Russia adoption ban on US
  5. Apple's bill to Ireland could rise to €1.6bn
  6. Scottish independence vote 'more likely' after May's Brexit speech
  7. US imposes sanctions on Bosnian Serb leader
  8. Spain 'broadly compliant' with EU fiscal rules

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  2. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  4. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  5. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  6. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  7. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  8. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  9. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  10. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London
  11. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhDs Across Europe on the Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU - Apply Now!
  12. Dialogue PlatformInterview: Fethullah Gulen Condemns Assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Zero Waste EuropePublic Support Needed to Promote Zero Waste in More Municipalities
  2. Belgrade Security ForumEU Cannot Afford to Ignore the Western Balkans as Populism Surges
  3. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen Calls for an Investigation on the Assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey
  4. World VisionAmid EU Talks on Migration, Children on the Move Remain Forgotten and Unprotected
  5. Centre Maurits CoppietersAlex Salmond Receives Coppieters Award for His Service to Scotland and Europe
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsStrong Support for Hamburg Declaration on Human Rights Defenders
  7. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Use Bioenergy Coming From Forests in a Sustainable Way?
  8. Counter BalanceReport Reveals Corrupt but Legal Practices in Development Finance
  9. Swedish EnterprisesMEPs and Business Representatives Debate on the Future of the EU at Winter Mingle
  10. ACCAFifty Key Factors in the Public Sector Accountants Need to Prepare for
  11. UNICEFSchool “as Vital as Food and Medicine” for Children Caught up in Conflict
  12. European Jewish CongressEJC President Breathes Sigh of Relief Over Result of Austrian Presidential Election