Wednesday

22nd Feb 2017

Opinion

Secret EU budget vote is unacceptable

Earlier this month EU leaders agreed for the first time ever to a cut in the long term budget of the European Union.

At that meeting, hawkish countries such as the UK, Denmark and Sweden managed to achieve an agreement that will reduce the 2014-2020 budget from €977 to €960 billion.

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But the budget drama is not over. New for this budget process is that the European Parliament gets to accept or reject the result of the summit.

Top MEPs have so far expressed mostly negative sentiments, with most of the parliament having backed the European Commission's original and far bigger budget proposal.

The European Parliament believes that the EU needs more money, not less. But when the resources are limited, a choice must be made and the heads of state and government chose austerity in times of economic crisis.

For our part, we feel certain that a great majority of Europeans would find it reasonable that the EU is now run on a smaller budget.

But we are less sure that the majority of euro-deputies will vote for the much-needed slimmed down proposal.

Some MEPs argue it is natural to support budget increases if you represent Europe as a whole.

These members have misunderstood their role. Unlike EU commissioners, who are appointed to represent the EU as such, MEPs have a mandate from their constituents at home.

Is it possible that MEPs realise they are not going to become popular at home by voting for increased spending?

EU parliament president, German Socialist Martin Schultz, has suggested there may be a secret ballot on the budget. This would make it impossible to see how each deputy voted. Schulz explained such a vote could mean that MEPs would not be put under pressure by their national governments or those they represent.

But If they go against the wishes of their constituents they could be voted out of office in the 2014 elections.

Secret ballots in this context are unacceptable. If you are elected by the people to a political assembly, then the people must be able to hold you accountable.

When former US leader Ronald Reagan felt unsure whether the Congress would support his tax reform in 1981 he coined a famous phrase: ”When you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.”

Reagan encouraged voters to call their members of Congress and give their opinion. The Congressmen were drowned in phone calls from citizens who wanted tax cuts and the proposal passed.

Now it is time for some of the members of the European Parliament to hear what their constituents think.

Should the EU budget be cut back in harsh times as is the case in member states, or should the trend of spending more than the previous round continue?

Should the vote on the budget be open and democratic, or should it be a secret procedure impossible to scrutinise?

We call on citizens to email their representative in the European Parliament to find out whether they want to reveal their position.

The writers are members of the Swedish parliament for the centre-right Moderate Party

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