Tuesday, August 02, 2005

By-passing the Commission

There is an interesting piece over at EU Rota, which in turn picks up on a “nicely revealing interview” in EurActiv with EU Budget Commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite.

After a discussion on member states funding of the EU vs. the introduction of "independent sources of funding" (ie. EU-wide taxes), she goes on to complain about how one or more governments "have misused the referendum". She complains:

The arguments used were mainly to blame Brussels or blame Europe - blame for failures or an inability to manage domestic affairs. In the latest Eurobarometer we analysed the reasons for failure. Europe wasn't a main reason - it was largely a vote against internal policies, against national governments. So I can confidently say that failure is attributable to over ten years of misuse of Brussels by European governments – to shelter or hide behind Brussels or Europe to cover up their own domestic mismanagement, in most cases. It is mainly decisions by governments and not by people. Nobody really talks about the views of their people. It is mainly decisions made by governments to use their own resources.
This is interesting as far as it goes, but it conceals a more profound change in the way the EU has developed and is developing. Already evident before the French and Dutch referendums, there is increasing resort to "intergovernmental agreements" made within the framework of the Treaties, but outside the institutional control of the Commission.

The European Defence Agency is a very good example. Although it was supposed to be set up by the EU constitution, whence it would have come under the wing of the Commission, it was actually set up by a Joint Council Action, whence it comes under the control of the Council rather than the Commission, nominally responsible to Javier Solana.

What we are seeing, therefore, is no let-up in the pace of integration, but a shift in the centre of gravity. In key aspects, the power has moved from the Commission to the Council, which is calling the shots, leaving the Commission, in certain policy areas, to act more like a traditional civil service than a government in its own right.

Interestingly, having been established within the framework of the Council, its funding does not come from the EU budget, but from direct contributions from member states. They committed to spending €1.8 million in 2004 and €19.9 million for 2005, with the UK paying €3,596,803 (£2.5 million) from the MoD budget.

All this puts a different light on Commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite woes. Rightly, she picks up on, "decisions by governments and not by people", and complains the results of the referendums were largely the result of "decisions made by governments to use their own resources," but what she doesn't seem to realise is that governments are still making their own decisions. They are pursuing integration with renewed enthusiasm but, in so doing, they are increasingly by-passing the Commission to develop their own agendas.

Grybauskaite, therefore, may observe that "Nobody really talks about the views of their people," but, increasingly, nobody talks about the views of the Commission either.

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