Friday 8 May 2009

European Union: Financial assistance to member states (legal search methods)

Readers may be familiar with the so called no-bailout clause and the prohibition against monetary financing of government expenditure, but on the other hand the European Union can assist member states with balance of payments problems.

During the financial and economic crisis these provisions are far from mere abstractions, and for those who want to look deeper into the issues, an opinion of the European Central Bank (ECB) offers a convenient gateway.

The Opinion of the European Central Bank CON/2009/37 of 20 April 2009 on a proposal for a Council Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 332/2002 establishing a facility providing medium-term financial assistance for Member States' balances of payments has been published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) 8.5.2009 C 106/1.

This opinion does not only present the ECB’s favourable opinion on the increase of the ceiling of the assistance facility to EUR 50 billion, but as other legal acts and opinions it serves as a gateway to the relevant documents for interested readers.


Regulation 332/2002

First of all, we have a full reference to the Regulation to be amended in a footnote:

Regulation (EC) No 332/2002 of 18 February 2002 establishing a facility providing medium-term financial assistance for Member States’ balances of payments (OJ L 53, 23.2.2002, p. 1).

We now know where to find the original Regulation in the Official Journal.

To be on the safe side, we have to look for possible later amendments.

If we search with year and number using the simple search on Eur-Lex, we find a Bibliographic notice on the Regulation, giving us amendments and proposed amendments.



We find the proposal by the Commission in the second footnote: COM(2009) 169 final.

If we turn to Preparatory acts on Eur-Lex, we find the Commission’s Proposal for a Council Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 332/2002, establishing a facility providing medium-term financial assistance for Member States' balances of payments (Brussels, 8.4.2009 COM(2009) 169 final) with the help of the number.

We can use the document number COM(2009) 169 or the procedure number 2009/0053/CNS to track the proposal on PreLex.

We can follow the procedure with the help of the Legislative observatory of the European Parliament using (for instance) the procedure number.

In other words, we are able to check how the file advances, and we can access the documents.


Additional information

The ECB opinion makes a point about what the financial assistance is and what it is not allowed to be:

“In this context, the ECB notes that the procedure foreseen in the proposed regulation must fully comply with the prohibition on monetary financing laid down in Article 101(1) of the Treaty, read in conjunction with Council Regulation (EC) No 3603/93 of 13 December 1993 specifying definitions for the application of the prohibitions referred to in Articles 104 and 104b(1) of the Treaty ( 3 ).”

The third footnote ─ ( 3 ) OJ L 332, 31.12.1993, p. 1 ─ guides us towards Article 101(1) TEC and Council Regulation 3603/93.

The current (consolidated) versions of the treaties are found on Eur-Lex under Treaties.

We know when the Regulation was published, but an act older than 1998 is not found by OJ year and number. In addition, we have to be prepared for ten years of possible amendments.

After using the simple search (year and number) on Eur-Lex, we find the bibliographic note and the text. I notice no amendments.


Accessing EU documents

This is one illustration of how EU documents guide us to the information we need and how we can search for materials.

The legal materials are available including amendments, the search options help us and we can track the new proposals.

Most of the times, the services are up and running, and I find what I need.

On the other hand, there are much more sophisticated search options available, but my search skills are pretty basic.

If someone wants to share more advanced tips with the readers of this blog, I am grateful.

Ralf Grahn

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