Treaty change: What the Parliament thinks


Political groups in the European Parliament are widely sceptical of a Franco-German push for a treaty change, arguing it will do little to solve the eurozone crisis in the near term. EURACTIV has compiled the views of the Assembly's main political groups.

France and Germany unveiled proposals on Wednesday to create a "stability and growth union" for the eurozone, based on stricter fiscal discipline enshrined in a new treaty.

The new treaty text would be written down in March and would be put for approval to all 27 EU members. But given the difficulties in ratifying an agreement among the 27, Paris and Berlin said eurozone countries "will go ahead" on their own.

France and Germany even suggested they were ready to forge a smaller treaty "with the member states that have the will and the capacity to go forward".

Below is a compilation of positions on the issue submitted to EURACTIV by the main political groups in the European Parliament.

Martin Schultz, president of the the Socialists and Democrats Group (S&D):

“I am against a treaty change and this is not only the Social Democrats saying it – all groups in the European Parliament, I repeat, all groups in the European Parliament will send [Parliament President Jerzy] Buzek tomorrow to the council’s meeting with the message that we are against a treaty change, because it is not necessary.

"It was just seven weeks ago, when we endorsed the so-called six-pack, that we heard from the Council: 'This is a historical break-through'. And now, seven weeks later, the same people tell us the markets didn’t accept the historical breakthrough, now we need a treaty change. These are not the necessary measures - a treaty change is not necessary, the means, like the budgetary discipline the Germans especially wish for, are already available.

"I think what we need are decisions about the role of the European Central Bank. Is the ECB for some member states in the eurozone a kind of lender of last resort? In my eyes, yes, but we should confirm it. We should secondly decide how far-reaching the measures taken by the ECB could be.

"This is important because the board of the ECB must know what the positions of the member states are.

"There is a contradiction, Sarkozy wants more flexibility of the ECB and Merkel not; Merkel wants more budgetary discipline and Sarkozy is against that. The German-French couple is in reality a German-French permanent disaccord.

"Secondly, we need a decision about the question of eurobonds and in the case that there are no eurobonds, because Germany is against this.

"Then they should explain to us what they propose instead – Merkel and Sarkozy – [for] the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). With a bank licence, the ESM could act as a bank and give money to the states. [Unfortunately], the tendency in preparing the summit is not to deal with this problem, but with the treaty change.

"To propose budgetary discipline exclusively, by ideological reasons, without the necessary measures on the side - especially investment in growth - makes no sense and that is why what is on the table is unbalanced. If the eurozone collapsed it would be a disaster. I think that whatever we do, we must have a goal: to keep Europe united.”

Guy Verhofstadt, president, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE):

"This week's EU Summit should agree a comprehensive vision for tackling the immediate issues of sovereign debt with the tools we already possess. It should agree what changes to the Treaty are necessary to establish stability and discipline for the longer term. This should be agreed by EU 27 – even if it only affects eurozone countries as others may one day join.

"The ECB role should be buttressed, as intervention in the past has been crucial, but they should take that decision independently rather than be told what to do by governments. The European Commission should clearly be in the driving seat, both in proposing the package of measures and in enforcing them as we insisted during 6-pack negotiations. There can be no future for an intergovernmental Union.

"Eurobonds should not be dismissed out of hand but the options should be examined carefully. ... The Union should establish a system of common issuance of bonds that mutualise in a progressive and partial way eurozone debt up to a maximum of 60% of GDP with differentiated interest rates within this range.

"We have already made a number of statements to this effect and have been one of the main proponents of some form of debt mutualisation."

Green group's co-presidents Rebecca Harms and Dany Cohn-Bendit:

"This week's EU summit must provide durable and democratic answers to the core issues facing the eurozone, both immediate measures to put out the sovereign debt fire, and long term measures to restore confidence in the euro.

"In order to stanch the sovereign debt crisis, until a more durable, treaty-based solution can be implemented, EU leaders need to finally support the only short-term solution at hand: the backstop of the European Central Bank.

"The European Central Bank has been playing the role of lender of last resort to the private sector for a long time. It is also already de facto playing this role for eurozone sovereigns to some extent.

"However, in order to deliver a sufficient deterrent to the circling wolves in the bond markets, and address the current credit crunch, the ECB finally needs political backing.

"With this achieved, EU leaders must outline a roadmap for bedding the euro in a true economic union, based on solidity and solidarity, with democratic checks and balances. Whether this is realised by treaty change or through legislation based on the current treaties, it is crucial that the democratic process is respected.

In practice, this means agreeing tough, binding rules on fiscal discipline, while accompanying this with the creation of eurobonds, in order to underline the permanence of the currency and the common-purpose of its members.

"The failed intergovernmental approach, which so far has only delivered damaging pro-cyclical austerity and brought the euro to the brink, must be jettisoned. This implies tasking the European Commission with the economic governance of the euro, while providing for commensurate democratic oversight by the European Parliament and Council.

"In order to have democratic legitimacy, any such treaty change will have to involve the directly elected European Parliament, and implies following the Convention method. Anything other than this, notably proposals to force new rules through in a protocol, would be an affront to the principles on which the European Union is founded."

Martin Callanan MEP, the chairman of the UK Conservative delegation, European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR):

"Treaty change discussions are aimed at preventing another crisis situation caused by unsustainable government debt but they will do very little to solve the immediate crisis. Even if the changes are agreed and implemented swiftly (which is very optimistic), what will happen to those countries that are already significantly exceeding the Stability and Growth Pact's 3% requirement? Will they be fined? Will they be ejected from the eurozone? Is that what some countries have had in mind from the start? 

"German taxpayers are understandably getting tired of picking up the bill for the profligacy of other countries. Eurobonds would only exacerbate the perception that pooled debt is actually just a cover for Germany paying other countries' bills. Eurobonds are the very definition of moral hazard because Mediterranean countries will have no incentive to make their economies more competitive. It's like taking one bucket of clean water and a bucket of poison and mixing them together. Ultimately, you still have a bucket of diluted poison.

"If there is to be a new kind of economic governance within the eurozone, I would have serious concerns about the so-called caucusing effect whereby the euro members are able to use qualified majority voting to push through their own terms for initiatives that affect the 27 - particularly the single market. The single market and the eurozone must be clearly separated and a firewall built up between their governance structures. If pro-single market countries like mine and the UK see the terms of the single market being dictated without their say, it could destroy it. 

"As an MEP from a non-euro EU nation, I also want to see the recognition in the current discussions of the two-tier EU that has emerged out of this crisis. Treaty changes should involve negotiation and countries like the UK can use the opportunity available to them to say that euro countries should be free to go their way towards a closer arrangement and fiscal federalism, but we should be able to have more flexibility within the EU.

"Power should not just go in one direction, from national parliaments to Brussels, but also on the opposite direction. In the future, I believe that the only way the EU can survive is to become more flexible, so that all 27 member states are equally respected, but not required to sign up to every dot and comma in the acquis communitaire. "

Lothar Bisky, president of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL):

"We want a change in policy: towards a social, political union, putting social needs before profit. Better coordination of economic and fiscal policy is crucial for a functioning monetary union.

"We don't agree with the six-pack or the Euro Plus pact because their neoliberal approach does not work. They must not be enshrined in the treaties.

"Comprehensive financial market regulation is urgently needed and decoupling of public finances from financial markets also means the decoupling of politics from assessments of rating agencies.

"Eurobonds can be one helpful instrument of solidarity among the members states. The left has always called for a change in the ECB mandate towards a balanced promotion of decent employment, sustainable growth and price stability. Possibilities of direct intervention of the ECB and fixed interest rates for ECB sovereign bonds should be considered.

"Form must follow function: Where fundamental treaty changes are needed, they must follow a transparent and democratic process fully involving the Parliament, using the convention method and, where needed, referenda in the member states.

"This includes the extension of EU competences as well as changes to the institutional set-up."

An EU summit is being held in Brussels on 8-9 December with the European debt crisis and EU treaty change high on its agenda.

European leaders will examine Franco-German proposals for strengthening the stability and growth pact as well as a report by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy for a more limited treaty revision.


Measure co-financed by the European Union

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