There are two main issues at stake with the so-called ‘Six Pack’ of EU legislation designed to prevent eurozone countries overspending in future. The first is the amount of wriggle room to be given to states that break the rules, and the second is the extent to which states themselves (represented in the Council of the EU) are in control of policing the rules, as opposed to the role of the European Commission.

How is the European Parliament behaving?

Contrary to the wishes of the centre left and the greens, the European Parliament wants states to have little wriggle room on the first issue (as reported by EUObserver). This would – according to critics of the agreement – entrench austerity. On the second issue, to a great extent at the behest for former Belgian PM and leader of the liberals in the EP Guy Verhofstadt, the EP favours a solution where the Commission is largely in control.

Why is this?

Probably in largest part because the European Parliament views this as a Europe-wide problem – if one country over-spends then it has an impact on the rest. Just look at what’s happening with Greece. The European Parliament is being pro-EU, supranational.

The problem is this centralisation of control is at the expense of democracy, as detailed at length in an excellent and long comment piece by Leigh Phillips. If the people of Ireland, Portugal or wherever else vote for some alternative economic plan, tough. The European Commission imposes the rules.

The problem with Leigh’s piece is that he does not draw an alternative possible conclusion, the goal that the European Parliament should be pushing for if Verhofstadt and others genuinely believe in EU-wide democracy – namely that the framework for fiscal coordination should be decided EU-wide through a democratic process involving the Parliament, with rules set contingent on the outcome of European Parliament elections. Not a EU-technocracy, but a functioning EU-democracy when it comes to fiscal rules.

Photo: European Parliament “EU flag inside a spiral” April 21, 2010 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution


  1. Jon,

    You are right, in principle, although I feel more unsure about how much we can realistically expect the EU to change at one heave.

    Once upon a time, when I wrote about the then new Lisbon Treaty, I documented how triumphantly some member states (for instance Sweden and the UK, if I remember correctly) declared how economic policy remained firmly in the national domain.

    Not much new under the sun. In order to preserve sovereignty, European countries shot down the Briand plan before World War II… Many of them lost their sovereignty for the duration of the War and for five decades after.

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