EU treaties – words not deeds

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According to the EU, treaties are “binding agreements.” Remember the Maastrictht Treaty requiring countries to maintain debt below 60% of GDP? The treaty that Germany and France were violating in 2003, well before the GFC. So now we have the latest fiscal treaty, requiring countries to ensure that their structural budget deficit does not exceed 0.5% of GDP. Violations will lead to “automatic correction” and the EU Court of Justice can impose penalties of up to 0.1% of GDP. If the EU Parliament spent half as much time helping  implement sensible reforms in European economies as it spent on writing treaties that will be violated within months of being enacted then maybe Europe’s economies would move forward. The UK has already rejected this treaty, and I would hope that Irish voters reject the treaty at their referendum on this matter.  While Europe crumbles van Rompuy scribbles.

3 Responses to "EU treaties – words not deeds"
  1. Surely, it’s hard to tell whether those new treaties will be more respected this time round; but that applies to any agreement, especially an intergovernmental one. Not much of a contribution to the debate.

    More surprising is your subsequent call for the European Parliament to try and fix national economies, instead of agreeing to such useless treaties. Firstly, the Parliament hardly has competences to address the problems of those economies. Secondly, I don’t know why you bring the Parliament up at all since it’s only member states that negotiate and sign treaties in the EU. The Parliament has no role in what you are discussing. Do some research.
     

  2. You are correct that the EP does not have such competencies – what I meant was that the EP should help countries with implementation of Treaties such as the Lisbon Agenda to raise productivity – with help in the form of research support as to how that Treaty might be implemented for example. As for violation of the Treaty – hasn’t Spain violated it already?

  3. Hi Mark,
    Thank you for your insights. This is an extremely interesting topic.

    I believe the EP has no major role to play in this… Don’t you think you’re treating the EU as a Westminster-style democracy, which it is not? Also, your reply is a bit confusing: the Treaties are a very limited set of texts describing the internal functioning of the EU and the competences of its institutions. Nevertheless, you do raise an interesting point with the fact that Spain will be compelled to violate the so-called Fiscal Treaty: what is the point of such a treaty?
    Point by point.
    The EP not only lacks competences in many important matters in the current crisis (like fiscal policy), but also lacks legislative initiative in all areas… This is why we are constantly seeing extraordinary European Councils or Councils of Finance Ministers to go with them. This policy has to be hammered out through intergovernmental negotiation, even if it is at EU level.
    Now, the EP may draft suggestions but that’s hardly a lot of “help in implementation”. I’m not sure what “help in research” really means for policy but it is clear that the EP is not a think-tank, either.
    As to the “Lisbon Agenda”, there are two documents that were agreed to by European Councils in Lisbon

    a Strategy in 2000 to make the EU the most competitive economy in the world by 2010 
    a Treaty, signed in 2009, that aimed at making the EU more governable

    If by the Lisbon Agenda you mean the “Strategy” (which is not a Treaty, but a mere agreement), you’ll be glad to learn that the Lisbon Strategy was quietly dropped before its day of reckoning arrived because it had clearly failed to deliver. It was replaced by a new Strategy called Europe 2020.
    Finally, on the Fiscal Treaty, I personally believe it’s only natural that Spain refuses to abide by it. France and Germany also refused to abide by the Maastricht criteria (3% inflation, 60% debt-GDP ratio) when they deemed those criteria would needlessly hurt their economy. Those same criteria were also ignored to allow Belgium and Greece be part of the first batch of countries to enter the eurozone.
    I think the problem is that in creating a monetary union the EU has embarked on a dangerous voyage. Politicians (and the economists that accompany them) are compelled to pretend that they know very well where this is leading and order full steam ahead with a stern voice… but are not crazy enough to cry foul when the helm makes course corrections. Let’s hope the Market Almighty sees it the same way.

    Best regards,

    Alfonso 

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