MEPs angered by ‘Franco-German approach’


European parliamentarians have reacted angrily to Franco-German plans to abandon the so-called 'Community method' and reform economic governance of the euro zone on an intergovernmental basis. reports.

If it wasn't a direct attack, it appeared to be. On Tuesday (15 February), MEPs and the European Commission strongly criticised the method twice used by France and Germany to reform the euro zone's rules.

Last October, Paris and Berlin suggested a revision of the EU Treaties and, less than four months later, proposed a 'competitiveness pact' aimed at increasing the convergence of member states that use the euro.

The pact put forward a number of measures including salary indexation systems, debt limits or brakes written into countries' constitutions and mutual recognition of educational qualifications.

Since Sarkozy and Merkel presented the plan at an EU summit on 4 February, many parliamentarians and European leaders have criticised their determination to impose their views on their partners.

"Any initiative, including in the field of competitiveness and convergence of the European economy […], must be in compliance with the Treaty," said European Commission President José Manuel Barroso in Strasbourg.

"We need to ensure that none of the wagons go off the rails, for fear of derailing the whole train," Barroso warned. "A governmental step can be progress, but we prefer to walk faster in one large communal step," he added.

MEPs feel 'mistreated'

German MEP Elmar Brok (European People's Party) said "the governmental method and the Community method must not have an equal footing". The mood in the European Parliament is heated, he noted, with MEPs from smaller countries feeling "mistreated".

"We must ensure that the European Commission manages the mechanism as much as possible," said liberal ALDE group president Guy Verhofstadt. "The Community method has much more favourable results than the intergovernmental one," he stressed.

Many MEPs also feel that France and Germany have disrupted proposals on economic governance initiated by the Commission last May.

"We have the six texts, but at the same time, we have to take into account the results of Herman Van Rompuy's working group," noted French MEP Pervenche Berès from the Socialists & Democrats group.

Rebecca Harms, co-president of the Greens/European Free Alliance group, said it is "wrong to bypass the Commission and European Parliament" through this proposal. She warned of a growing intergovernmental mentality.

Commission approves Treaty change

The criticisms were made during a debate on amending the Treaty of Lisbon – something which EU leaders agreed on in October in order to create a permanent crisis mechanism for the euro zone.

Also on Tuesday, the Commission gave its green light to the Treaty change, after deciding that the proposed amendment would not alter the competences of the European Union "in any way".

National approval procedures in all 27 member states will now have to take place before the permanent mechanism can be established, once the current temporary one has expired in 2013.

At the last EU summit on 4 February, Germany and France tabled plans to harmonise tax and labour policies in the euro zone, saying the crisis had exposed the necessity to complete monetary union with an economic union.

Ireland's super-low corporate tax rate of 12.5% has drawn fire from France and other countries because it gives Irish businesses a competitive advantage.

And that is the kind of gap France and Germany want to close before agreeing to raise the ceiling of the EU's bailout fund, as demanded by many countries.


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