Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Where democracy and transparency in eurozone rescue?

The eurozone rescue operations between the Euro Group governments have left EU citizens with little more than a number of communiqés.

Only the € 60 billion European financial stabilisation mechanism (Council Regulation 407/2010; misnamed in Euro Group press release yesterday) was published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU).

Weeks later a proposal was formally and belatedly published as a preparatory document on Eur-Lex: COM(2010) 2010 final (the number is odd, when the latest document, published 7 June, is numbered 293). Sadly it only contained the Regulation text, so it did not add to our knowledge. Naturally, this proposal did not serve the purpose of public debate before decisions are taken.

On the other hand, in this saga Council Regulation 407/2010 is the shining star from the viewpoint of transparency. It was, after all, agreed between all the EU member states in the Council and published in the OJEU.

Intergovernmental deals

There were no preceding (Commission) proposals on Eur-Lex under preparatory documents of the € 80 billion Greek rescue package and no publication of the decisions in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU).

No proposals open to public debate were published on the EU’s legal portal Eur-Lex with regard to the new € 440 billion European Financial Stability Facility. Will this press release after the fact be what the public is deemed worthy of at EU level with regard to the EFSF?

Terms of reference of the Eurogroup: European Financial Stability Facility (Luxembourg, 7 June 2010)

To recapitulate...

Three decisions have now put € 580 billion of EU citizens’ money on the line (almost the size of the GDP of the Netherlands), plus half as much promised by the IMF.

Monumental decisions are taken between governments of the Euro Group, without opportunity for open and public debate in advance on known proposals. Intergovernmental deals seem to fall outside the publishing criteria of Eur-Lex.

Using the same logic, perhaps we should wonder why the treaties are published officially. They, too, are agreed intergovernmentally, not by the EU institutions.

The euro rescue discussions have taken place in the Euro Group, an unofficial group of finance ministers.

There is now talk about economic governance or government. Some of the ideas floated suggest that a new unofficial group of eurozone heads of state or government would replace the already unofficial Euro Group or be superimposed on it.

Openness, transparency and democratic accountability would suffer even more.

Public debate, publicity, opportunities for public debate, responsibility and parliamentary scrutiny at European (eurozone) level would be short-circuited more than ever. Scrutiny by dispersed national parliaments, each with regard to their own government’s role, is no substitute when the decisions de facto concern the whole eurozone and every inhabitant.

Government by press release is not the way forward in a Europe all too willing to teach the world the virtues of democracy, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Ralf Grahn