Politics

The EP’s rebellion against the European Council’s budget deal

The European Parliament, through the voice of its main leaders, announced its intention to reject the budget deal reached by the European Council after several hours of harsh and difficult negotiations. According to them, the multiannual financial framework is not going to enhance the EU competitiveness and is not in the interest of the European citizens. 

Socialists, liberals, ecologists and conservatives are determined to reject an agreement favouring austerity and the selfishness of Member States despite the European Council Chairman’s warning, Herman Van Rompuy, that the EP should act responsibly. This warning was immediately ignored by Joseph Daul (EPP chairman), Guy Verhofstadt (chairman of the liberal ALDE), Hannes Swoboda (S&D chairman) and Daniel Cohn-Bendit (chairman of the Greens), who all considered that the European Council did not negotiate with the MEPs before.

The EP – the MEPs rather – is trying to take an initiative and impose its views even if it means rejecting with no qualms a harshly negotiated and, in the end, disappointing deal. Acting like that, the MEPs want to send the European Council the following message: the Brussels and Strasbourg hemicycle represents the European citizens and defend their interests and such a principle should not be questioned by the national leaders, especially when the future and the credibility of Europe are at stake.

This message is sent to the national leaders, in particular to David Cameron, since the UK Prime minister is considered by some analysts as the main winner of the EU budgetary deal insofar as he finally imposed his views with the full support (not to say the benediction) of Germany. What is more, the UK even managed to maintain some of its advantages, such as its rebate, which does not satisfy at all some Member States such as Italy, nor some political groups in the European Parliament, all denouncing the UK conservative leader’s attitude.

The EP wants to reaffirm itself vis-à-vis the European Council and the Commission within the EU decision-making process. During a too long moment, this assembly was regarded as weak towards the demands of the national leaders and of the technocrats, preventing it to totally play its role. Nonetheless, the EP, with its threat to reject the 2014 – 2020 EU budget, does not only express its reluctances; it also reminds its competences which were apparently ignored by the European Council and by Herman Van Rompuy and David Cameron. In fact, the Parliament is about to start a power struggle with the European Council, to force it to negotiate, but also to take into consideration its position and therefore to reconsider the deal. If the European Council decides to disregard, it might be disowned by the EP who has a comfortable majority to reject the budget. Moreover, the MEPs, led by their respective leaders and aware of their power, will want to go on, in order to appear credible in front of the EU citizens.

Thus, it is highly probable that a new (inter-institutional) negotiation is about to start within the EU, to adopt a budgetary framework that is acceptable for everyone. By threatening to veto the current deal, the European Parliament reminds of its prerogatives and is also becoming aware of its political weight within the decision-making process, similarly to a national parliament, thanks to the impulsion of some parliamentary leaders. Indeed, with no agreement coming from the Parliament (that is to say, the EU citizens), there will be no budget. Such an important fact should strongly temper the satisfaction of David Cameron if the EP goes on and is not heard and respected.

Gilles JOHNSON

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