56. The European Parliament Has the Final Word for the EU Budget (2014-2020) – Legal Analysis in the Light of the Lisbon Treaty

(Source of the photo © European Parliament)

The European Council composed of the 27 respected head of state and government has been finally adopted the new multiannual EU budget for 2014-2020. This agreement has been often called in the media as “the final deal”. However, may I kindly point out that the budget negotiation has not been reached their end at all. I am afraid that they will start just now by the negotiations between the Council and the other co-legislator: the European Parliament.

What implications does the Lisbon Treaty have in relation to the EU budget?

To answer this question we have to go back shortly to the years 2007-2009, when the European Constitution has failed. After its rejection by several referendums (NL, FR) its slightly modified version has been pushed through in all EU Member States, in spite of some attempts to block it (referendum of IE, veto of Václav Klaus, CZ president). European Foreign Ministers have been often criticised that they made all their efforts to adopt this new Treaty without carefully reading it through.

Firstly, the Lisbon Treaty was meant to resolve the several institutional crises of the EU by clarifying the clear areas of EU competences. However, instead of simplifying the procedures, the Lisbon Treaty made the EU decision making procedures even more complicated. For example, it set up a new President for the European Council, but it did not lay down the clear share of power between the new president and the rotating EU presidency. What is the result? In practice, the European Council has no real president but only a well respected chair.

Secondly, the Lisbon Treaty wanted to create a truly unified European Foreign Policy by creating a new ‘EU foreign minister. Nevertheless, EU member states, especially the three big ones (DE, FR, UK) did not want at all to delegate their national foreign policy to the EU. What happened, then? They established the “EU High Representatives for Foreign Affairs” without real administrative, financial and military power who should act as if she represented the common EU foreign policy which does not exist at all.

Thirdly, the Lisbon treaty meant to bring more legal clarity by simplifying the primary law of the Union. Nonetheless, the legal clarity has been lost too when the Member States have adopted twoe treaties (TEU, TFEU) having the same legal value. What if one treaty would contradic to the other? Well, since they are legally equal, there is no clear legal answer to resolve these conflicts which may open the door for permanent internal legal disputes. Obvioussly, each institution refers in the daily practice to the treaty which is formulated in its favour. Never-ending legal discussions have started about who should represent the EU: the Commission, the new EEAS, or the rotating EU presidencies. In some cases, the EU could be considered as ridiculous: it happened that having no agreement, the person reading the statement on behalf of the EU/its member states simply said to the international community: ‘We’.

Finally, the Lisbon Treaty aimed at bringing the EU closer to its citizens by – among others – reinforcing the role of the European Parliament. While we consider this as a step to the right direction, the European Parliament – the only European institution directly elected by the European citizens – has not been fully recognised as an equal power to the Council, yet.

However, an important new implication of the Lisbon Treaty was that the European Parliament was provided with important powers not only in the usual legislation but also in the adoption of the EU budget. In other words, without the agreement of the European Parliament, there will be no agreed EU budget possible in the future.

However, either the Member States or the respected journalists have not discovered this important change, yet. What did we see on the recent February European Council meeting in Brussels (apart from the annoying fact that the Schuman district was blocked, as usual)? All news and media attention focused on the European Council (which followed the usual practice and negotiated during the night) and after the ‘final deal’ everybody was busy to making statements. All interested parties tried to position themselves as the ‘winners’ and for the unfavourable details, they blamed the ‘evil Brussels’, as usual.

All who acted in this way, completely lost the point. The European Parliament – representing European citizens – made clear at the very beginning of the European Council that no new post-crisis Europe can be built upon with less money. The EP did not forget to point out that it will reject the cuts proposed by the Member States. So, it is too early to consider the budget, as adopted.

In the light of the legal facts, without the approval of the EP, no budget can be considered as the final one. Thus, we should bear in mind this, and concerned decision makers may start to think about how can they secure the EP’s approval. For example, by proposing a budget which has a pro-European approach with more money for Europe. For us. For everybody.

I remain at your disposal.

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Zoltán MASSAY-KOSUBEK

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6 Responses to 56. The European Parliament Has the Final Word for the EU Budget (2014-2020) – Legal Analysis in the Light of the Lisbon Treaty »»

  1. Comment by Jose | 2013/02/12 at 14:44:20

    When there are contributors and beneficiaries it is impossible to have ‘more money for …everybody’.

    The EP is extremely good at spending money that it cannot raise but argues about. Consequently, you will always have the beneficiaries wanting more and the contributors attempting to minimise their payments.

    In some ways, this is a perfect argument for the EU to have tax raising responsibility but I have to say as a Brit, it would be the last thing I would want to trust them with. Like many bureaucrats, they are simply interested in having more responsibility which in turn will mean more salary and greater pension benefits at the end of the day.

    The EU responsibilities should be re-appraised and many returned to national parliaments,

  2. Comment by Zoltán Massay-Kosubek | 2013/02/12 at 15:57:12

    Thank you very much for your thoughtful comment, José.

    The fact that there are net contributors and beneficiaries in the EU is indeniable. But this is how the EU works. The EU budget is just one element of a very complex issue. Through the common market, however, the ‘net’ contributors can realise huge profit and advantages by selling their products within the whole community without legal barriers. The harmonised EU-law systems also beneficial for investments. So every country benefits from the common policies – and the budget is part of it.

    I would not underestimate the EP since while the democratic deficit still exists within the Commission and the Council, the EP remains the only democratically elected body with direct political responsibility linked to the general EP votes. It is already something so the EP has a legitimicy the others do not.

    The Developments and Regional Funds and the social funds are intended to help the most vulnerable, the most poor countries of the EU and not the ‘rich bureaucrats’. Moreover, these contribute to eliminate existing inequalities within the EU which is almost in the best interest of rich Member States.

    Finally, the EU Member Ship is based on democratic decisions. Once the willingness has been faded, every Member States has the right to re-consider its membership and leave the EU, if they wish to do so. The doors are open.

    However, as I pointed out several time, I see the future of a strong UK within the EU and I think that UK is more pro-european than people may think.

    I remain at your disposal.

    Zoltán

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  3. Comment by Martin Buckley | 2013/02/21 at 07:50:34

    I read your justification of transfers from rich countries such as the UK to the poorer countries of the EU but I’m not convinced. You argue primarily on the basis of morality

    In terms of morality I’m not sure why the poorer countries of the EU should be favoured over really poor countries or even European countries outside the EU such as Ukraine. The British government’s aid program targets the poorest countries of the world. That has some logic to it. Given that EU countries even poor ones, have the benefits of being within the EU it would seem more moral to target resources to those without that advantage.

    Indeed I find the whole basis of the European ideal vaguely suspect since it implies we divide the world into EU – Solidarity and non-EU – non-Solidarity. The whole emphasis is to differentiate between us and them. I am not convinced that replacing one form of nationalism with another form of nationalism is particularly moral.

    .

  4. Comment by Zoltán Massay-Kosubek | 2013/02/21 at 10:29:32

    Dear MArtin.

    thank you very much for your contribution.

    First of all, thank you pointing out the justification of transfers from wealthy countries to the poorer ones. A blog entry does not allow to express all arguments in a detailed manner but morality is not the only basis on it.

    Briefly, transfers are beneficial for the rich countries as well, in an indirect way. LEt’s take the example of healthcare services. What we can see that the quality of healthcare services are much better in richer countries than in poorer ones. Thus, there is a push on rich countries and patients are seeking the possibilities to fleed there. But the same applies on unemployment. Unemployments of poor countries are threatening the labour market of rich countries.

    Thus, reducing existing inequalities by transfer would alloe poorer member states to keep their population at home by giving their work and quality healthcyre at home which will reduce the push on richer countries’ health systems and labour market.
    I hope, this argument makes clearer what I mean.

    Moreover, you’ve got a point by pointing out the dimension of EU and non-EU aims. I do not think that the EU should give up its aid systems providing countries with basic help which are really under the poverty line. There is no contradiction between the two. The transfers within the EU are based on EU law and the financial help to third countries is based on the EU aid system.

    I remain at your disposal.

    Zoltán

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  5. Comment by Martin Buckley | 2013/02/21 at 15:12:57

    Zoltan
    I think the best appeal to self-interest is to identify collective services which are best provided at European level. A health example would be research to develop new anti-biotics to counter drug resistant bacteria. The link between transfer payments and the self-interest of rich countries is much harder to make particularly in the case of UK.

    I accept the argument that improving conditions at home makes emigration less likely. But the disparity between EU countries as regards standards of living including welfare provision is now enormous and the narrowing of that gap may be very slow. Greece entered the EU in 1983 and has been a recipient of EU aid in every year since then. Countries with poor economic management will stay poor.

    From a UK perspective this causes a problem. We have been clamping down on immigration from India and Africa to find it being replaced by low-wage EU immigration. Because of their low wages the immigrants pay little or no tax and are heavily subsidised. The British taxpayer has to provide schools, hospitals facilities and welfare payments.

    From the point of self-interest it is a point in favour of UK withdrawal from the EU. Morally we have some commitment to paying subsidies to the accession countries because we argued in favour of their accession. But whether we have a moral commitment to unlimited low wage EU immigration is more doubtful unless you come back to the “us” European and “them” non-European (Africans Indians) distinction.

    Martin

  6. Comment by Zoltán Massay-Kosubek | 2013/02/21 at 15:28:35

    Dear Martin,

    thank you for your clarification and I can fully see your point.

    We agree that the EU somehow failed to reduce existing inequalities between Member States. The example of Greece is valid. Some say that this is partially because the lack of common economic policy (with a forced monetary union).

    I agree that reducing inequalities would be more efficient through political integration (ex-. Germany or Belgium are federal states which can be considered as a political integration and there are machanism to transfer the resources to less developped regions)

    But the EU shoudl remain democratic. Any new kind of political union which would allow a more effective redistribution should be a subject of a democratic process. My vision is an amoeba integration: some current EU member states will decide to create a more closer political union and the other current EU member states will stay around this grain integration as part of a common economic space.

    Se further details here:

    41. Why not Base the United States of Europe on the EU-Turkey Reconciliation? Vision of an Amoeba

    http://massay.kosubek.zoltan.dinstudio.com/diary_1_46.html

    Concerning migrants, it is a complicated case my brief reaction is that from a universal and human rights point of view you cannot differentiate between human beings concerning basic social needs.

    I remain at your disposal.

    Zoltán

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The Blog is managed by Zoltán Massay-Kosubek, a Hungarian qualified lawyer living in Brussels. ★ Zoltán works for the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) as Policy Coordinator. As the main author of this blog, he shares his own opinions & personal analyses only. more.



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