Parliament’s duty is to fight for economic democracy

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The necessity to extend the EU competence in the field of fiscal policy is crucial and it lies in the hands of the European Parliament to address it since the EU lacks credible leadership at the moment, says British Liberal MEP Andrew Duff.

Andrew Duff is a British MEP and spokesman on constitutional affairs for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). He is also president of the European Federalists Union.

"The Paris summit succeeded only in disguising the deep division between France and Germany on the question of the EU's fiscal model and on the type and force of economic government.

While we can welcome some convergence about the automaticity of the excessive deficit procedure and the imposition of the 'golden rule', as well as the speeding up of the installation of the European Stability Mechanism, the lack of agreement elsewhere is staggering.

We are more than ever convinced that radical treaty change is needed to extend EU competence in the field of fiscal policy, to modify the functions of both the European Central Bank and the European Court of Justice, and to change the decision-making procedures in Ecofin with respect to financial discipline.

Attempts by the heads of government to use Protocol 12 on the excessive deficit procedure as the basis for a new form of economic government will be in vain and should be immediately desisted. Article 126(14) TFEU allows the Protocol to be replaced by a special law of the Council, acting by unanimity after having consulted the Parliament and the ECB. But the provisions of the Protocol cannot supersede or overturn the other provisions of the Article 126 which have primacy.

Nor can Protocol 12 be used to increase the powers of the ECJ. And Article 136 will have to be changed to instal 'debt brakes' across the eurozone.

Instead of going into contortions to avoid serious treaty change, the European Council should bite the bullet and invite Parliament to call for a Convention to prepare an IGC. Only a deep, pluralistic and transparent debate on these matters between all relevant stakeholders, including national parliaments, will produce optimum results.

For the sake of the integrity of the legal order of the Union, constitutional development of this importance must be done by all 27 member states. The euro is the currency of the Union and member states – the UK and Denmark have opt-outs – are enjoined by treaty to join the single currency when convergence criteria are met. The motivation behind the creation of the euro is exactly the same today and as good as it was originally: what has changed is the imperative of installing stronger government of fiscal and economic policies.

An intergovernmental treaty of the eurozone alone outside the Union framework would be most likely to breach the Lisbon treaty. Do we all want to end up in Court over our constitution while the euro is in peril?

In any case, unanimous agreement on going it alone among the current 17 eurozone members look highly improbable.

So the European Parliament must be much clearer and firmer about its duty of care to the common interest of all our citizens and all taxpayers. Fiscal solidarity requires strong democratic government forged deliberately in a Convention. The last thing we need is more tinkering at the edges by desperate national leaders."

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