Sunday, 3 April 2011

European Council: Economic policy reform priorities II

The European Council referred ”further” to the Annual Growth Survey (AGS) from the Commission – in a footnote – when it endorsed ”the” (which?) priorities for fiscal consolidation and structural reform, as we saw in Part One.

If, for the European Council, the work of the Commission was the base of the iceberg somewhere deep down, the submerged Council configurations in the same footnote were placed only marginally higher, in footnote 1 to paragraph 2:

In line with the Council's conclusions of 15 February and 7 March 2011 and further to the Commission's Annual Growth Survey. See also the Presidency's synthesis report of 16 March 2011.


European Council 24/25 March 2011 Conclusions; Brussels, 25 March 2011 (EUCO 10/11; 34 pages)

Ecofin 15 February 2011

Naturally, the European Council did not link to the relevant Council conclusions or documents, neither did it identify the documents in an exact manner.

However, if we search among Council meetings, only the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Ecofin) seems to have convened on 15 February 2011.

Having identified the Council configuration, we need to retrieve the Ecofin conclusions in order to find out what the European Council aligned itself with (at least broadly):

3067th Council meeting Economic and Financial Affairs; Brussels, 15 February 2011 (Council document 6514/11)

On page 12, Ecofin dealt with preparation of the March European Council. Under the sub-heading 'EU 2020 strategy: Macroeconomic and fiscal guidance to the member states' we are able to read that the Council adopted conclusions to be found in a further document, 5991/11 [link in original, but did not work in my browser], and that Ecofin agreed to submit them to the European Council with a view to its meeting on 24 and 25 March.

Having verified Ecofin adoption, we can get acquainted with the substance in:

EU 2020: Macroeconomic and fiscal guidance – Draft Council Conclusions; Brussels, 7 February 2011 (Council document 5991/11; 7 pages)

Ecofin welcomes the Annual Growth Survey, treats the issues in the context of the European semester, and it refers to the Integrated Guidelines. The Council calls for ambitious country-specific recommendations from the Commission and ambitious measures by the EU member states.

Both the Commission's AGS and Ecofin's conclusions are written in a businesslike enough manner to be almost apolitical, but they are separate documents, difficult to compare, since no paper trail is created, no explicit choices made.

Likewise upwards in the hierarchy, the European Council creates its own ”masterpiece”, only vaguely acknowledging some sources of inspiration.

The discontinuity between the Council and the European Council, again, leaves readers wondering what the EU actually is committed to.

Is this good governance, openness, closeness to the citizen?

Ralf Grahn

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