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Courage and power for the future of Europe

, by Alessio Pisanò

What is wrong with the euro rescue plan agreed on 28-29 June at the European Council summit? It was drafted and signed by the President of the Council, the Commission the European Central Bank and the Eurogroup but one signature was missed: Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament. It is of all but minor importance as the Parliament is the only democratically elected body in Brussels with full respect of the other EU institutions. Yet this is not the first time.

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  • Freelance Journalist based in Brussels twitter: @AlessioPisano

Speaking ahead of the European summit, Mr Schulz asked the other leaders to implement very concrete measures to stem the crisis from spiralling out of control. Then, privately, he asked to join the group of the ’magic four’ in charge of leading the way out of such crisis. It was awkward not to see his name amidst the authors of the plan discussed later by European leaders. But again, this is all but new.

The entire management of the euro crisis has put the European Parliament aside from the European decision making. Take the fiscal compact, the set of new rules established to keep national budgets under control and monitored by Brussels. This text has been agreed on, written, and signed at intergovernmental level with little respect of the EU institutions. The European Parliament has barely been invited to take part at the round tables where the fiscal compact has been put together. Representatives from the political groups had been struggling to insert into the text what was relevant in order to maintain a kind of European approach. And yet they had to insist not to have their proposals sidelined.

While the European Parliament Economic Committee, chaired by the Liberal Democrat MEP Sharon Bowles, held dozens of meeting to talk about the euro crisis and the measures needed to stem the debt crisis, national European leaders appeared to completely ignore their suggestions going forward with agreements already out of date. Most of the provisions tabled in the fiscal compact, for example, had been already foreseen by the six pack proposed by the European Commission and then finalised by the two pack, both packages outstandingly approved by the European Parliament. It goes without saying that such an approach is franticly self-harming when Europe is running short of time to survive.

On doing so, national European leaders are showing a lack of respect of what European Union really means. “Merkel and the others from the Council only talk, while we act”, said an angry Hannes Swoboda, leader of the Socialist and Democrats group in the European Parliament.

Indeed, the Parliament had envisaged a European bank union two years ago but the idea was rejected by the same people who gathered in Brussels for the June summit, waving at it like the final panacea. “The problem is that the Council is blocked by those who do not want to move forward. It is disappointing how many times we are meeting and delivering, and how many times they meet and produce nothing,” Mr Swoboda added. Maybe he has got right to the point.

The Council problem has also been addressed by EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olly Rehn. “This Commission and this Parliament have a unique responsibility to prove that the community method will be in the centre of the next chapter of the making of Europe.” Indeed, it is the community method to be under siege by national governments which prove to be sick of respecting the European law. Reality and finance show that such an approach is out on track of saving the euro and the EU itself.

ALDE leader Guy Verhofstadt has been outright in an interview about German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande who, in his view, are squabbling like children. Markets remind us that we should bear in mind that time is running short to make a jump towards federalism, not only to avoid a complete collapse of the euro but also to save what Europe has become throughout the last 50 years. “It is a general lack of courage to transfer new sovereignty to the European level. Because it is a loss of power. This is what it is about”, said Mr Verhofstadt. Courage and power – the sooner they find the way to keep the two concept together, the better Europe will find its way out of the crisis.

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  • On 14 July 2012 at 22:00, by Iwantout Replying to: Courage and power for the future of Europe

    Once again you are pushing the EP. Please could you look at the EP turn out as documented by Eurostat. It has declined in percentage terms each and every time elections have been held and is currently barely over 40%. On a national level the same countries show a participation rate at least 50% higher (and in extreme cases 300%) It is perfectly reasonable therefore for the national politicians to say they have a more substantial mandate. In short you are backing a body which simply has failed absolutely to capture or sustain any sort of popular support or enthusiasm.

    With regards to the “jump towards federalism” and wish to “transfer new sovereignty to the European level.” as described by Guy Verhofstadt. I would be grateful if anyone could point me towards the research / polling that shows there is a clear majority across Europe or indeed individual countries for such a move.

    Leading is one thing, but ignoring those you are supposed to represent and continuing in the high handed fashion which has caused so many of the current problems is another thing entirely.

  • On 17 July 2012 at 18:55, by Alessio Pisanò Replying to: Courage and power for the future of Europe

    The fact that the EP is scaling back does not mean that the democratic values that it represents are fading at all. There are many reasons why the European electoral turnout is going down. This is exactly what national governments aim at.

    Federalism. In the XVIII century there was no polling showing that there was a clear majority for democracy and republic. But history turned out in such a way.

    The EP is facing an overwhelming golpe by Member stets who ignore the community law process just because they do not want to give any power away. Then, in the event of a crisis (financial, economical, migrations) that address Brussels.

  • On 18 July 2012 at 12:50, by Iwantout Replying to: Courage and power for the future of Europe

    There were precious few polls at all in the XVIII century. Several countries still had absolute monarchies or republics with no realistic claim to be democratic. No country that I am aware of had universal suffrage.

    But now we have democracy, we have universal suffrage, we have polls, we have referenda, we have readily available news media, internet etc. But despite on almost all readings people across Europe becoming steadily more dissatisfied with the unmandated changes in the EU, the elites carry on in one direction regardless.

    We can argue endlessly about how valid the EP is ( and I believe I have made my views and the reasons for them clear) but surely the underlying question is who ever asked for the EP in the first place and when were the people asked whether they wanted the EP to supersede national parliaments. Or are we once again in the hands of absolute rulers who do what they want and present the results as a done deal to the grateful citizens regardless of their wishes. (Bit like the Euro really and look how that worked out.)

    As a final point, from my position the EU has a long history of taking powers from the nation state and I have never noticed them to be slow in enforcing their will.

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