Analyst: Merkozy micromanages EU institutions

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The latest document released by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in preparation of the 30 January European summit is a sad example of micromanagement of the EU Commission and Council, a prominent Brussels-based political analyst told EURACTIV.

Piotr Maciej Kaczy?ski, a research fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies, said it was "not for France and Germany to set up the agenda of the European Commission, and certainly not their job to set up the agenda of the European Council".

He was commenting on a leaked paper – "Ways out of the crisis: strengthen growth now" – prepared by Paris and Berlin as "Proposals for the European Councils in January and March 2012". 

The five-page document says Germany and France take the view that the European Council should send strong signals for more growth and employment. In doing so, Paris and Berlin stress the countries' responsibilities and propose concentrating efforts on six priorities:

  • Tackling unemployment, in particular for youth;
  • Developing tools for the financing of companies;
  • A better use of EU funds;
  • Reinforcing financial market regulation;
  • Modernising public administrations;
  • Improving access to third markets.

The paper was circulated by the German and French governments as a whirl of bilateral meetings take place to prepare the 30 January summit.

Council President Herman Van Rompuy yesterday (23 January) visited Warsaw and Berlin, where he met with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo was also in Berlin and met the chancellor.

"Those who set the agenda of the EU Council are people around Herman Van Rompuy. If France and Germany want to have an input on that, they should transmit their ideas to Herman Van Rompuy, Kaczy?ski said.

He added that the legislative issues which are touched upon in the document should be proposed by the Commission, while elements such as tax coordination or the proposed financial transactions tax (FTT) should be addressed by Van Rompuy.

'Crossing the line'

"This six-point document is a lot of wishful thinking, a lot of micromanagement, and stepping into not your foot. It's rubbish, this is what it is," he added.

"Talking about the European plan for apprenticeship is micromanagement. Why mention EURES [the European job mobility network] in the European Council preparation? Merkel and Sarkozy should instead focus on broad guidelines, while policy specifics are dealt with in a legislative manner in the Parliament and the Council, not the European Council. That's exactly what they shouldn't do, this is crossing the line," he said.

Kaczy?ski called "tiny" the idea by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Merkel that some of the unused EU structural and cohesion funds should be spent under the authority of the Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB), instead of by the national authorities.

'Wishful thinking'

"European Council for growth and jobs? I'm sorry, this Monday nobody is going to talks about growth and jobs, anybody is going to talk about the fiscal compact, which is useless anyway," said Kaczy?ski, who insisted that the EU had neither the capacity nor competence to regulate growth and jobs.

Asked by EURACTIV to comment the idea that unspent structural funds could be managed by the Commission and EIB, Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski said he had nothing against the measure if it would create more growth and jobs, but that one more structure could make absorption more difficult.

Another Commission source said that in the case of Greece, the amounts in question were "not huge", citing the sum of €10 million to €15 million for 2011.

Kaczy?ski said leaders could send a stronger message if they would put their initiatives in the context of the EU budget – or Multiannual Financial Framework – for 2014-2020, which is under discussion, but in fact preferred to restrain themselves to the current financial situation.

Asked if the extraordinary January "jobs" summit was not called to suit the election calendar of Sarkozy, Kaczy?ski said it would be "outrageous" if indeed this was the real reason behind it.

Running scared

But he added that the more realistic reason for holding such an extraordinary summit was the negotiations on the intergovernmental 'fiscal compact' and what he called "the fear" of British Prime Minister David Cameron.

"For some reason, everybody is freaking out that the British might leave or do something bizarre. That's why there were even invited to negotiate the fiscal compact. It's childish," he quipped.

Asked about the British frustrations over the proposed FTT and the latest Commission statements the UK would have to pay even while staying out, Kaczy?ski said that linking FTT with the fiscal compact was "at least a misunderstanding".

EU heads of state and government will meet on 30 January for an extraordinary summit on growth and jobs. However, other issues appear to be on the agenda as well.

Meeting Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti in Rome on 16 January, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy stated that the new fiscal compact treaty, which leaders decided to have adopted on an intergovernmental basis following the UK veto at the 9 December summit, would be agreed on at the end of January and signed in early March.

Leaders are also likely to consider an EU-wide tax on financial trading, called the financial transactions fax (FTT), opposed by British Prime Minister David Cameron and several other leaders.

  • 30 Jan.: EU summit expected to adopt fiscal compact
  • 1-2 March: Fiscal compact treaty to be signed at the EU summit in Brussels
  • 1 Jan. 2013: Deadline for entry into force of fiscal compact provided that at least 12 countries have ratified it

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