15th Sep 2019

MEPs lukewarm on special powers for eurozone deputies

  • Critics say the idea of euro-zone division of MEPs is a 'pandoras box' (Photo:

An idea to create special arrangements within the European Parliament for deputies from eurozone countries is gaining traction but there is confusion over whether it can work in practice.

The aim is for eurozone MEPs alone to be able to discuss issues affecting the single currency area - reflecting wider moves to strengthen the economic and political integration of the soon-to-be-18 member region.

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

A Franco-German paper published last week was the latest to mention the concept. It spoke of "dedicated structures specific to the euro area to be set up within the European Parliament" after the 2014 elections.

But the idea is highly complex both legally and politically. It is similar to the UK's so-called 'West Lothian' question - first raised 25 years ago and an increasingly hot topic today. That concerns the extent to which Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish deputies should be able to vote on issues only affecting England.

The European Parliament's own West Lothian question was raised about two years ago about the time when EU leaders started to earnestly think about the institutional future of the single currency, including eurozone bailout funds and eventually a eurozone budget.

Political leaders in the parliament suggested setting up sub-committees to deal with eurozone issues. But since then discussions have stalled.

"The problem is that when you look at the rules of the treaty, it is immensely difficult to put such a concept in place," said centre-right Polish MEP Rafal Trzaskowski.

"Because we have all equal rights. We represent citizens not member states. It would be quite difficult to organize it in a way that would not breach the treaty."

According to Trzaskowski, who has been involved in discussions on the issue, one idea would be to have some sort of gentleman’s agreement under which the political parties concerned would agree amongst themselves to send only euro and would-be euro member deputies to a sub committee.

Another option, said Trzaskowski, could be to have the three biggest parties give key posts and reports only to euro member states.

There is also the broader question of what is purely a eurozone issue.

"It's one union and one financial market. The problems of the banks are not just issues of the eurozone," said Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, also a Polish MEP.

UK liberal MEP Andrew Duff points to the financial transaction tax (FTT), supported by 11 eurozone states but potentially affecting all 27 member states.

"The discussion over the FTT is a very good example of this. All member states are seriously involved in that concept. They all have a stake."

He also raises a purely organisational objection. "If you decide to divide the present responsibilities of the economic and monetary committee then you’re risking incoherence and inconsistency. And we’ve got quite enough of that already."

In addition to blurred boundaries between euro and non-euro issues, Polish and other MEPs reject the idea on principle. Of the all the eurozone outs, only the UK and Denmark have an opt-out from joining the single currency. It was part of EU membership negotiations for the rest. So why, goes the argument, should they be excluded from discussions on issues that will eventually affect them.

Saryusz-Wolski said he and other eventual eurozone member MEPs will oppose creating "two tiers of MEPs" within the parliament and, if necessary, before the European court of justice.

Treaty change

When it comes to the practicalities, the parliament is entitled to set up a sub-committee on eurozone issues. But separate legislating and voting in plenary is a different matter.

"That is completely different," said Duff. It would require a treaty change.

Anand Menon, professor of European politics at King's College London, suggested that the "very last thing (French President) Francois Hollande could possible want is a treaty change. Because he will come under such pressure to have a referendum."

He also believes that there will be no concrete change within the European Parliament until eurozone integration is greatly increased, something that could still be far down the road.

"I suspect the policy will precede the institution. If they ever manage to agree a eurozone budget, then the case for different structures within the parliament for eurozone countries becomes immeasurably stronger."

Catalonia celebrates national day ahead of trial verdicts

Catalonia celebrated on Wednesday its national day - while awaiting the trial verdict on 12 Catalan separatists, former politicians of Carles Puigdemont's government. That decision is expected for early October.

Those tricky commissioner candidates in full

Three central European commission nominees can expect to feel the heat from MEPs later this month, with the Hungarian candidate emerging as the most controversial.

News in Brief

  1. Nearly 100 refugees evacuated from Libya to Italy
  2. Juncker to meet Johnson on Monday
  3. First Hungary 'Article 7' hearing set for Monday
  4. Vestager picks Danish EU ambassador as cabinet head
  5. Commissioner hearings will start 30 September
  6. Italy says EU countries agree to take in rescued migrants
  7. Germany to organise Libya conference on arms embargo
  8. European Parliament to support another Brexit delay

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Brexit and new commission in focus This WEEK
  2. As recession looms Europe needs more spending
  3. How should the EU handle Russia now?
  4. EU defence bravado criticised by auditors
  5. Central European leaders demand EU Balkan accession
  6. Luxembourg's cannabis legalisation is EU opportunity
  7. The Catalan National Day has been a success. Why?
  8. Why I'm voting against the von der Leyen commission

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us