Saturday, June 19, 2004

Excessive deficits

This one relates to the treatment of member states which stack up excessive deficits. Article III-76 (6) refers, which goes through the usual tedium of requiring the Council, "on a proposal from the Commission" and "having considered any observations which the Member State concerned may wish to make", and "after an overall assessment"… (not exactly user-friendy text is it!)

Anyway, once it's got all that out of the way, what it boils down to is that it can decide whether there is an excessive deficit and give the offender a slap on the wrist, telling it to sort it out…

In Community speak, that reads "it must adopt without undue delay", on a recommendation from the Commission, "recommendations addressed to the Member State concerned with a view to bringing that situation to an end within a given period".

The recommendations are not made public and – here is the interesting bit - the offender isn't allowed a vote on the Council, which acts under qualified majority voting, using the three-fifths population rule of the voting members.

What this amounts to is the Council setting itself up as a Kangaroo Court, with the Commission as a prosecutor, and then deciding on the sentence by majority vote. That would be the position Britain could find itself in, should it join the euro, being judged – say – by Greece and Italy – and not being allowed to vote.

Can you imagine the humiliation?

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