Friday, May 07, 2004

More of those changes

Adding to the previous post, here are some more of the changes in the amended version of the draft constitution.

European Central Bank

Article III-299

An amendment is included as follows: “A European law of the Council may amend the Statute of the Bank. The Council shall act unanimously, either at the request of the Bank and after consulting the European Parliament and the Commission, or on a proposal for from the Commission after consulting the European Parliament and the Bank.”

This is a major change. Up to now, to protect the independence of the ECB, its statute was built into the Treaty (Maastricht). A full treaty change was required to change the statute – with of course, all the implications for ratification. Now the Council can make the changes – on a proposal either form the Bank of the Commission, and although unanimity is required, the hurdles needs to achieve change are very much reduced.

Growth and Stability Pact

Article III-76

An amendment is included, changing paragraph 12, dealing with the power of the Commission/European Court of Justice to take action against member states which breach the criteria.

It originally read:

“The rights to bring actions provided for in Articles III-265 and III-266 may not be exercised within the framework of paragraphs 1-6 or paragraphs 8 and 9”.

This paragraph, of death-defying opacity, is replaced by:

“The right to bring actions provided for in Articles III-265 and III-266 may, as regards paragraphs 1 to 6, only be exercised as to the procedural stipulations in those paragraphs”.

Hardly any clearer, this appears (but needs to be confirmed by a lawyer or other expert) to circumscribe the power of the Commission/ECJ to take action against recalcitrant states. If that is the case, Germany and France have been let off the hook, making a mockery of the EU's economic policy.

Budget approval

Article III-310

A major change here. Added is a new sub-paragraph, (7)c

(if…) The European Parliament, acting by a majority of its members and three-fifths of the votes cast, rejects the joint text (of the budget) while the Council approves it, the European Parliament may ask for a new draft budget to be submitted by the Commission…

This is a MAJOR change. It means that the parliament can over-ride the member states (who pay the bills) and demand their own changes to the budget, even when the member states have approved the budget. This is a major extension of the power of the Parliament at the expense of the member states.

The worst is to come

All these changes will be considered by Foreign Ministers on 17-18 May (Waterloo day). The procedure is that, IF THEY AGREE, THE DECISION IS FINAL. Only on matters where there is disagreement do those specific issues go forward to the summit in June for consideration by the Heads of States and Governments.

Yet, it must be emphasised, none of the changes so far enumerated have been flagged up in public statements by the Irish presidency. This is indeed turning out to be “the secret constitution”. So much for the "will of the people".

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