MEPs on Wednesday sounded out EU Council president Herman Van Rompuy and Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič on the results of last week's EU summit. Economic policy and the EU's long term budget featured prominently, along with questions about Hungary and Syria. The Cypriot crisis took centre stage, with many MEPs highly critical of the Eurogroup's decisions and demanding clear information.
Mr Van Rompuy defended the target of fiscal consolidation while conceding that the six-pack rules could be applied less "dogmatically". The uncertain situation in Cyprus was "very damaging" and needed to be addressed immediately, he said.
Mr Šefčovič said that Latvia and Ireland showed that fiscal restraint and growth could be combined. On the EU's long term budget, he welcomed the EP's position and said all the pieces were in place for negotiations to begin. On Cyprus, Mr Šefčovič placed the blame for the situation squarely with the country's authorities, saying the Commission had pushed for a solution which would not have hit small depositors.
A new economic policy prescription
"All this austerity is a losing formula. Even the IMF says that some more flexibility will still allow us to meet our fiscal goals," said Hannes Swoboda, the Austrian leader of the S&D group. Gabriele Zimmer, the German leader of the GUE/NGL group, asked: "Why did you have this summit at all? You were unable to provide results on unemployment."
"We need much more growth-friendly policies and it is time to abandon the euro," Roger Helmer, a British member of the EFD group, said.
Big questions on Cyprus
MEPs showed little support for the requests made to the Cypriot authorities by the Eurogroup over the weekend. "What went wrong in the Eurogroup? The deposit guarantee, one of the few certainties we had left, has now been harmed," Corien Wortmann-Kool, a Dutch member of the EPP, group, said. The plan was "totally incomprehensible", said Guy Verhofstadt, the Belgian leader of the ALDE group. "We need to protect depositors not the banks and shareholders!" he concluded.
Rebecca Harms, the German co-chair of the Greens, said it was necessary to act fast on Cyprus to avoid a "Russian solution" while on the other hand also address the problems of money laundering and the tax haven status of Cyprus. "The EU should have expected that Russia would step in," Jan Zahradil, a Czech member of the ECR group, warned.
Cyprus will again feature prominently on Parliament's agenda on Thursday morning, when the economic and monetary affairs committee combs through the details of the events with the new Eurogroup president, Jeroen Dijsselbloem. The debate starts at 9.00 CET.