October 19, 2011
Suggestions of eurozone exclusivity in voting raise objections
Deputies from eurozone countries should alone be allowed to vote on issues to do with the single currency in a special committee, a leading MEP has suggested.
French Socialist MEP Pervenche Beres, head of the European Parliament's employment committee, believes it is time to set up a sub-committee on the eurozone where "only euro members would vote" to reflect the general trend in the EU towards a political and policy-making split between euro and non-euro member states.
She made the suggestion in an amendment to her own report on European Semesters, a new system that sees member states submit budgetary plans to the European Commission for comment, one of a series of innovations designed to improve economic governance in the eurozone.
Beres admits the idea is controversial but says the issue needs raising as parliament otherwise risks getting left behind in the fast-moving discussions on economic governance in the 17-member eurozone.
"The democratic debate and the public debate on economic policy is the essence of a democracy. And if you only have it at the member states level and behind closed doors in the eurogroup, then you have a lack of democracy."
She indicated that if the EU assembly does not seize the initiative, then national parliaments will get there first.
Beres, who was previously head of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, also suggested her colleagues should be pragmatic in their approach to the "taboo" topic.
"If you want to fix the eurozone today, you’re not going to ask the Polish or the Brits to take all the measures and the risks that are needed to safeguard the eurozone," she said.
She also suggests that economic policy requires a new halfway house between intergovernmentalism - where only member states have a say - and the community method, jargon for a process led by Brussels.
"I am 100 percent in favour of the community method. But I know this method has been tailor-made for internal market purposes. Does it 100 percent fit economic policy? I am not so sure."
Her suggestion reflects the change in the European political landscape since the onset of the sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone.
The policies and decisions, which concern millions of euros of taxpayers money, have shifted the emphasis to the member states - rather than the commission - and resulted in a political chasm between those with the euro and the 10 countries that do not have it. This is particularly resented by newer member states not yet in the euro but legally obliged to join it.
Under Beres' idea, which she says is mainly to designed to "kickstart a debate", the sub-committee would be open to all members of the parliament but only eurozone MEPs would be allowed to vote.
She said that while there have not been many complaints yet, she "can see that they are coming."
UK Liberal MEP Andrew Duff was one of the first off the mark saying the committee idea "causes very great concern."
"There is no precedent for excluding MEPs elected in any one state from participation in all parliamentary activities," he wrote in a letter to Beres.
The idea will will get its first public test on Monday when the constitutional affairs committee gives its opinion on the French MEP's report.
Source: EUobserver, EUD staff