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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