Friday, 31 October 2008

European Central Bank IIb: Legal materials on Article III-79 draft Constitution

Having made a textual comparison of the main institutional framework of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB) and the European Central Bank (ECB) in the current Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) and in the draft Constitution, we turn to some legal materials and descriptions of the proposal of the European Convention in the draft Constitution.

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de Poncins

Étienne de Poncins presented the proposed text of Article III-78 of the draft Constitution in ‘Vers une Constitution européenne’ (Éditions 10/18, 2003), on page 303─304. His comment leads us to believe that the European Convention really intended the European Parliament to participate fully in the simplified revision procedures mentioned in paragraph 5:

« Commentaire : le paragraphe 5 autorise la modification du statut de la Banque centrale européenne. Actuellement cette législation requiert l’unanimité du Conseil et l’avis conforme du Parlement européen. La procédure législative sera d’application, le Conseil se prononçant à la majorité qualifié. »

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Sweden

Sweden remains outside the third phase of economic and monetary union (EMU), without an opt-out, but following the 14 September 2003 referendum. Still, the normal EU/EC institutions operate, in case of simplified revisions of the ESCB Statute or complementary legislation according to Article 42 of the Statute, which means that the member states with a derogation participate in the Council. In principle, these member states are seen as future participants in the Eurosystem.

I found no mention of Article III-79 in the Swedish government’s memorandum on the draft Constitution, ‘Europeiska konventet om EU:s framtid’ (Utrikesdepartementet, Departementsserien (Ds) 2003:58, 2003).

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Sweden

Ahead of the intergovernmental conference (IGC 2003─2004), but after the euro referendum, the government of Sweden made a reference to technical the participation of the European Parliament in certain matters pertaining to the ESCB Statute, in ‘Europeiska konventet om EU:s framtid’ (Regeringens skrivelse 2003/04:13, den 2 oktober 2003), on page 49 (in the last quoted sentence):

”Europeiska centralbankens tillsynsbefogenheter och stadgar

Konventet föreslår att beslutsregeln för överföring av tillsynsbefogenheter för den finansiella sektorn till Europeiska centralbanken (ECB) skall ändras. I dag krävs enhällighet i rådet och samtycke av Europaparlamentet. Förslaget innebär att rådet skall besluta med kvalificerad majoritet och att Europaparlamentet skall ges medbeslutande för en sådan överföring. Vidare föreslås att Europaparlamentet ges medbeslutande beträffande vissa frågor i stadgan för Europeiska centralbankssystemet.”

The Swedish government admitted the reasons for functioning decision-making within the eurozone and the interest of euro area members to effective representation in international financial institutions, but in between the government expressed its will to be included in the coordination processes generally (on page 50):

”Det kan finnas skäl för euroländerna att på olika sätt säkerställa ett väl fungerande beslutsfattande i euroområdet. Det är dock viktigt att samordningsprocesserna behåller sin gemensamma karaktär. Det är också förståeligt att euroländerna vill uppnå en effektiv representation av euroområdet i internationella finansiella institutioner.”


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United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has opted out of the third stage of economic and monetary union (EMU). (In the latest consolidated version of the treaties, Protocol (No 25) on certain provisions relating to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, OJ 29.12.2006 C 321 E/299).
Between the European Convention and the intergovernmental conference, the UK government presented its general approach ─ most British ─ in ‘A Constitutional Treaty for the EU; The British Approach to the European Union Intergovernmental Conference 2003’ (Cm5934, September 2003), under Economic Governance on pages 34─35:

“74. Many of the issues discussed in the European Convention and raised in the draft Constitutional Treaty could have significant consequences for the future performance of EU economies. The draft Constitutional Treaty proposed by the Convention has proposed changes to the EU’s existing system of economic governance and other aspects of the EU fiscal framework; the institutional balance between the Union and Member States in economic policy coordination; and the role of the Eurogroup, the informal grouping of euro area finance ministers. The Government will oppose any such proposals which might lead to unnecessary rigidities or undermine the central role of Member States in determining their economic policies. It will work to ensure outcomes that will bolster stability, promote flexibility and enhance the ability of European countries to raise productivity and employment levels.

75. The draft Treaty does not alter the terms of the UK’s Economic and Monetary Union protocol (allowing the UK to decide whether or not to join the euro). This will need formally to be re-adopted on the conclusion of the IGC.”

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Finland

Finland is part of Euroland.

The Finnish government, in ‘Valtioneuvoston selonteko Eduskunnalle konventin tuloksista ja valmistautumisesta hallitusten väliseen konferenssiin’ (VNS 2/2003 vp), mentioned the adoption of the (normal) legislative procedure concerning amendments to certain Articles of the ESCB Statute in draft Constitution Article III-79. The Finnish government remarked on the proposal to extend qualified majority voting in the Council of Ministers to amendments proposed by the Commission, not only the ECB. This had raised fears of weakening the position of the central bank, and the Finnish Convention delegates had resisted this amendment (page 66):
”Perustuslaillisella sopimuksella muutetaan myös joitakin päätöksentekomenettelyjä talous- ja rahapolitiikan alalla. Lainsäädäntömenettely ulotetaan kattamaan myös rahoituslaitosten valvontaa koskevien erityistehtävien siirtäminen EKP:lle (III-77 artikla) sekä EKP-järjestelmän perussäännön tiettyjen artiklojen muuttaminen (III-79 artikla). EKP:lle voidaan normaalia lainsäädäntömenettelyä noudattaen antaa erityistehtäviä jotka koskevat luottolaitosten sekä muiden rahoituslaitosten kuin vakuutusyritysten toiminnan vakauden valvontaa. Nykysopimuksessa tämä edellyttää neuvostossa yksimielisyyttä. Suomen taholta ei yhdistetyn valvontavastuun tavoittelua unionissa ole pidetty tarkoituksenmukaisena, koska kyse on erittäin herkkäluonteisista kysymyksistä joilla on myös taloudellisia vaikutuksia. EKP:n keskuspankin perussääntöä voidaan puolestaan jatkossa muuttaa ministerineuvostossa määräenemmistöllä myös komission, ei vain EKP:n aloitteesta. Tämän on pelätty heikentävän keskuspankin asemaa. Suomen edustajat konventissa vastustivatkin näitä muutoksia.”

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The attentive reader, with an eye for detail, may have noticed that my initial text comparison did not bring all the aspects to the fore. Neither did the researched documents individually, but using several sources gives us a fuller picture of the Article studied.

We will follow the Article III-79 proposed by the European Convention as it reappears after the intergovernmental conferences leading to the signing of the Constitutional Treaty and the Treaty of Lisbon.

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Ralf Grahn