ISSN 2330-717X

Ministers Debate New EU Powers Over National Budgets


(EurActiv) — The EU’s 27 finance ministers will be debating new transfers of power to the European Commission when they meet on Tuesday (21 February), as they examine proposals to tighten control over member states’ budgets in the wake of the eurozone’s debt crisis.

Finance ministers will for the first time debate the so-called ‘Two-Pack’ of draft EU rules that would give Brussels sweeping new powers to scrutinise national budgets.

Under proposal tabled in November, the European Commission would be able to “administer” countries that have sought international financial assistance to keep them from bankruptcy.

If the two bills were in force today, such an “enhanced surveillance” programme would apply to Greece, Ireland, and Portugal – the three countries currently receiving an EU/IMF bailout. In fact they already do, say EU sources, and the new laws will only codify existing practice.

But the proposed new rules would go further as the enhanced surveillance mechanism would also apply to countries whose budgets are deemed to be “at risk of experiencing severe financial disturbance”.

A diplomat from a large EU member state says the new rules represent a step change in the way the bloc polices its debt and deficits.

“We are giving the Commission an important power of appreciation” to determine whether there is a risk that member states are a risk of default, the diplomat said.

“This will put everyone in front of their responsibilities,” he added because no country will be able to ignore warnings anymore, as those will be made public. “This is an important power which is being given to the Commission.”

Today’s meeting will aim at giving a mandate for the Danish presidency to start negotiations on behalf of the 27 EU member states with the European Parliament.

“The aim is to adopt the regulations in first reading, before the end of the Danish presidency,” reads a background note circulated ahead of the meeting.

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