The European Parliament’s powers – or lack of them

14 August 2011

The European Parliament’s powers – or lack of them

These are extremely uncertain times for Europe. Speculators are attacking one country after another: after Greece, Ireland and Portugal came under the cosh, now it’s the turn of Italy, Spain, France and Belgium to feel the pressure. While the Dutch national Parliament next week returns from recess for an emergency debate on the euro-crisis, the European Parliament continues its holidays. Now, the EP has very little say over the euro. Moreover, there is always a majority of MEPs in favour of handing over more powers to Brussels. So perhaps it isn’t such a bad thing that next week will see Members still enjoying their holidays, but all the same it seems odd, when government leaders are constantly on the phone to each other discussing what may turn out to be historic decisions on ‘rescuing the euro’, that the buildings of the European Parliament are standing empty.

The SP team in the European Parliament will, however, certainly be returning to work next week. There’s plenty to do across the board. In the last few weeks I myself have continued to be active, though not from Brussels. I’ve been closely following developments around the eurocrisis, and these have not exactly encouraged a cheerful disposition, even if I was still away on holiday.
Because the European Central Bank has begun to buy up Italian and Spanish sovereign debt in an attempt to combat the worst of the euro-crisis, we are being drawn further into the morass. Until recently all commentators were in agreement over the fact that the other Eurozone countries would not be able to save Italy and Spain should these major economies experience serious problems. Now we are going to try to do just that, if for the time being only via the ECB.

The next step will be an increase in the emergency fund, as a result of which the Netherlands will be obliged to give still more guarantees to back poorly performing economies in southern Europe. And, who knows? Governments may in the end agree to the issuing of European bonds.

These are extremely important steps, and even if the powers of the European Parliament in this area are small, you could nevertheless ask yourself whether there ought not also to be an emergency debate in Brussels. From the point of view of the SP, the value of such a debate would be limited, insofar as the Parliament has only recently adopted reports arguing for further federalisation of financial-economic policy. So I won’t be taking the initiative myself in asking for a recall and debate. But in such dramatic times it will nevertheless seem odd next week to be walking along deserted corridors.

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