Saturday, 25 February 2012

Eurozone governance: Fundamental flaws but better presentation

This blog post continues the discussion in the entries Transparency during the eurozone crises and Euro crises: European Council eviscerated?, based on my speech at the 22 February 2012 Attac seminar about the implications of the new fiscal discipline in the EU. This text contains some modifications, updates and documentary references, complementing the oral presentation.

I am appalled by the crucial role two coteries, the Eurogroup and the new Euro Summit - both meeting informally – play in European economic policy making. I am disappointed in the way the coordinating General Affairs Council (GAC) and the European Council (EUCO) have failed to grow up, despite the possibilities offered by the Lisbon Treaty.

However, every cloud has a silver lining, or there are pockets of excellence everywhere.

Council press office

Since our discussion with the Council press office last November, some things have improved from the citizen's point of view.

Let us follow the paper trail of the Eurogroup and the official institutions to make our case.

The Council press office has recently added a web page called Eurozone Governance, accessible from the Council's front page, as well as the home page of the European Council. This is an improvement, and the contents have been upgraded. We could even say that the presentation has improved a lot (web page Documents).

After the fact, we learn i.a. that the EU finance ministers have agreed to shore up IMF resources by €150 billion (19 December 2011), the text of the Treaty on stability, coordination and governance in the economic and monetary union (TSCG) – also known as the ”fiscal compact” or the ”stability union” - and the text of the Treaty establishing the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) between the euro countries.

Nowadays, there are also articles about the main issues, with helpful links, so the materials are available in one place, in a much more user friendly manner.

The frequency of press releases has also gone up, and the various conclusions, as well as explanatory and official statements have also been posted.

Democratic debate

If presentation has improved, what am I carping about?

Despite better presentation, the fundamental flaws of structure and procedures remain.

The essence of democratic debate is seeing citizens and media as potential sources of input, not just a nuisance or subjects to be informed about the outcomes.

This is where the Eurogroup and the European Council fail miserably, and the Council configurations largely.

Thus, the Euro Summit which combines traits of the Eurogroup and the European Council is hardly a dream prospect with regard to openness.

Ahead of the Eurogroup Monday evening, we had a short statement (14 February 2012) from the president Jean-Claude Juncker announcing the chief reasons for the postponement of the ordinary meeting. The Eurogroup statement (21 February 2012) on the second bailout package for Greece offers the public highlights about the sacrifices of the euro area taxpayers, the private bondholders and the Greek people, but it does not contain any links to the underlaying documents and assessments. We are supposed to take the decisions on trust.

But this is the crux: They don't really have a mandate from me.

Ralf Grahn
speaker on EU affairs, especially digital policy and law

P.S. 1: For better or for worse, between the global issues and the national level, the European Union institutions and the eurozone coteries shape our future. At the same time we see an emerging European online public sphere. More than 900 euroblogs are aggregated by multilingual Is your blog already listed among them? Are you following the debates which matter for your future?

P.S. 2: Referring the anti-piracy treaty #ACTA to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) marks a lull in the proceedings, but not an end to the political battle. A few moments ago, the online petition launched by @Avaaz for the European Parliament (and the national parliaments) to reject ACTA had already been signed by 2,427,532 netizens, but more are welcome until the official burial.

Today, Saturday 25 February 2012, European citizens join forces through more than 150 demonstrations for open and democratic legislation and Internet freedoms. In Finland Stop ACTA Helsinki convenes in front of the Central Railway Station at 14:00 hours.