President. – The next item is the European Council and Commission statements on the conclusions of the European Council meeting (8-9 December 2011).
Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council. – Mr President, dear colleagues, I want to report to you today on the main outcomes of last week’s European Council. As you know, the main focus was on the future of the eurozone. It is a long route. Restoring confidence is more difficult than most of us expected. It has taken huge efforts to remedy the weak infrastructure provided by the Maastricht Treaty and to correct the policies of the past.
At the meeting, there was, on the one hand, a remarkable degree of consensus on the content and objectives. This agreement on the substance was moreover supported not only by the eurozone members but also by the future eurozone members. On the other hand, there was more discussion on the legal instruments necessary. Allow me to start with the former, lest it be overlooked because of controversy about the latter.
First, for the short term, we agreed on immediate action to help overcome the current difficulties. We are increasing our financial resources to address the crisis we face. The euro area and other Member States will aim to make available additional resources of up to EUR 200 billion to the International Monetary Fund. The leverage of the European Financial Stability Facility will be rapidly deployed at the European Central Bank, and the European Central Bank will act as its agent in market operations. The entry into force of the European Stability Mechanism rescue fund will be accelerated so that it can start in July 2012. In March, we will review the overall adequacy of the EFSF/ESM ceiling of EUR 500 billion.
As regards private sector involvement, the major change to our doctrine that we decided on 21 July will now be translated into the ESM Treaty. Or, to put it more bluntly, our first approach to PSI, which had a very negative impact on the debt markets, is now officially over. From now on, we will strictly adhere to the IMF principles and practices.
Second, as regards the medium and longer term, we agreed on a new fiscal compact with new fiscal rules. Member States will transpose it into their national legislation at constitutional or equivalent level. Our rules on excessive deficit procedure will become more automatic for the euro area members and key elements of this new approach are the following: first, building on the Stability and Growth Pact, budgets must be balanced in structural terms – that is, over the economic cycle; second, that rule must be defined at treaty level and incorporated into national rules; third, automatic adjustment mechanisms to ensure correction in case of deviation must be defined by the Member States on the basis of principles proposed by the Commission; four, bringing revised QMV to decide on Commission proposals at the very beginning of the excessive deficit procedure so that this will apply throughout the procedure. Besides that, as agreed in October, Member States under an excessive deficit procedure will have to submit their draft budgetary plans before adoption to the Commission.
As I said, there was a broad agreement on the substance. As regards the form, everybody agreed that these new commitments should be made binding, but there were different views as to how this could be done. As you know, I put on the table an interim report on strengthening economic and monetary union, which evaluated what we have done so far, identified weaknesses and suggested various ways in which these vulnerabilities could be addressed. These ways ranged from decisions that can be taken in the context of the existing Treaties, to a possible revision of Protocol 12 by means of a decision of the European Council, to fully-fledged treaty changes by means of either the simplified or the ordinary revision procedure.
Some of the decisions that can be taken on the basis of the existing Treaties were agreed. However, the possibility of revising Protocol 12 and the option of amending the Treaties both require unanimity. It became clear in the course of the meeting that such unanimity was not forthcoming. Faced with this fact – and I feel no need to be controversial myself on this – there was no alternative but to go down the route of a separate treaty among the 17 eurozone members, though open to others. Indeed, almost all of the other members, even those with a derogation on joining the euro, have now announced that they will join in this process, subject to consulting their parliaments. It was a moment of responsibility and solidarity. The European interest was at stake and the European interest has to be our only criterion.
An intergovernmental treaty was not my first preference, nor that of most Member States. However, it will make the fiscal compact binding. It must be negotiated as a matter of urgency. It will not be easy, also legally speaking. I count on everybody to be constructive, bearing in mind what is at stake. Our aim is to strengthen both fiscal discipline and economic coordination, going beyond what we have already achieved in the ‘six-pack’.
This will not be the first time that more engaged Member States have proceeded by agreement among themselves, without waiting for all to join the new initiative. It was the case with Schengen, with police cooperation and in terms of implementing the launch of the euro itself.
Importantly, we agreed that the European Parliament will be associated in this process.
As regards the calendar, rather rapidly, following consultations with national parliaments, we should know the number of participating states. I am optimistic because I know it is going to be very close to 27. In fact, 26 leaders indicated their interest in this effort. They recognise that the euro is a common good. Then, in early March at the latest, the ‘Fiscal Compact’ Treaty will be signed.
The objective remains to incorporate these provisions into the EU Treaties as soon as possible. In the meantime, we must ensure that the new procedures remain as closely embedded in the Union’s structure as possible. There is indeed considerable leeway to do so.
Besides this, the existing draft of last year’s ESM Treaty will be amended in the coming days. It will integrate yesterday’s important decision on changing our approach to private sector involvement and our ideas on softening the unanimity rule. The aim is for the ESM Treaty to be ratified by mid-2012.
In March, I will report to the European Council on deepening fiscal integration, as already indicated in the interim report I drew up in close cooperation with the President of the European Commission and the President of the Euro Group.
Finally, we called on the European Parliament and the Council, under the ordinary legislative procedure, rapidly to examine the Commission’s proposals of 23 November so that they can be in force in time for the next budget cycle.
The European Council discussed other issues that are also of importance, even if they were overshadowed by the economic governance issues.
On enlargement, following the consent of the European Parliament, we signed the Accession Treaty with Croatia, thus paving the way for Croatia to become the 28th Member State of the Union. We reconfirmed the European perspective of the Western Balkans, making clear that our door will not close behind Croatia.
In particular, the European Council identified clear objectives and a clear timeframe for Serbia and for Montenegro. Both countries have made remarkable progress on their way to the European Union. Serbia has taken bold steps to bring Europe’s most wanted war criminals to international justice. The Belgrade-Pristina dialogue has brought about initial results and implementation of those agreements is moving forward. We now expect Serbia to build on that dialogue and to improve relations with Pristina with the aim of the Council granting Serbia the status of candidate country in February next year, to be confirmed by the European Council at the beginning of March 2012.
Montenegro received candidate status a year ago and has undertaken many domestic reforms, which now need to be fully implemented. We will continue to assess Montenegro’s progress, especially in the area of the rule of law, and aim to open the accession negotiations in June 2012.
Coming back to the eurozone, confidence that has gone cannot be restored overnight. It is a long way, but this European Council is an important building block on this way.
José Manuel Barroso, President of the Commission. – Mr President, the Commission’s fundamental point of departure for last week’s European Council was crystal clear: the European Union needed to give a comprehensive response to the current crisis, making a firm commitment to the euro and to the irreversibility of our currency.
It is indispensable to have more discipline, structural reforms for more investment, more convergence, and credible mechanisms of solidarity. All these elements belong together.
Over the past 18 months, we have achieved some progress within the European Union as a whole, at 27, on the basis of the existing Treaties, with the European Union institutions taking the decisions. As a result, we now have a European strategy for growth and employment: Europe 2020. We have a substantially reinforced Stability and Growth Pact, with the ‘six-pack’, which will come into force today and will apply to all 27 Member States.
We have the European Semester, through which we coordinate our fiscal and macro-economic policies and implement our agenda for growth on an annual basis. We also have the new macro-economic imbalances procedure. There is also the Euro Plus Pact.
There are two brand new Commission proposals, made on 23 November, under Article 136, on further strengthening fiscal discipline, which I hope will be adopted in a fast-track procedure through an early first reading agreement.
We also have our assistance and adjustment programmes, including those for three euro area Member States. There is the European Central Bank playing its role, there is the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), and there will be the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).
The main purpose of this European Council was to show our joint determination to tackle persisting market tensions by consolidating these achievements and reinforcing them even further. Indeed, during Thursday night, an agreement was reached to create a genuine ‘fiscal stability union’, a new ‘fiscal compact’.
On substance, this agreement was ambitious, and it was unanimous. Unfortunately, it was not unanimous on the form, with one Member State unable to join. I will come back to both aspects – substance and form – in a moment.
Let me first highlight a number of important conclusions of the summit which match the position that the Commission has taken for some time.
I welcome, first of all, the fact that Member States have agreed to advance to July 2012 the entry into force of the permanent European Stability Mechanism. As you know, I had already suggested precisely this in September during the State of the Union debate before this House. I also welcome the fact that Member States have now finally agreed to deal properly with the involvement of the private sector, with the ESM applying the same principles as the IMF. The Commission has always warned of the possible negative effects of PSI on market confidence. The decision now taken should reassure investors.
An agreement also emerged that the ESM should not, as was initially planned, be subject to the rule of unanimity. Decisions will now be taken by reinforced qualified majority. Here again, I had proposed this already for the EFSF, but without success. So I am happy to see that now, for the ESM, things are going in the right direction.
More immediately, leveraging of the EFSF will be deployed very rapidly, with the ECB acting as its agent in the EFSF market operations. I hope that Member States will confirm their commitment to provide the IMF with additional resources of up to EUR 200 billion within the coming days.
We now need to go further. The spring European Council in March will discuss how to further deepen fiscal integration of the euro area on the basis of a report by the President of the European Council, together with the President of the Commission and the President of the Euro Group.
The Commission’s Green Paper on European stability bonds of 23 November will feed into this debate. As you know, this is very controversial for some governments. Nevertheless, I was encouraged to see support for our assessment that stability bonds can make an important contribution in the future to completing a fiscal stability union and creating a stronger liquid bonds market in Europe.
We also need to go further on growth, on investment, and on measures to promote jobs. Fiscal discipline is of course key, but – let us be frank about this – we cannot build our economic union just on discipline and sanctions. We also need a Europe of growth and of jobs. A Europe of responsibility, certainly, but also a Europe of solidarity.
Let me now move on to the key elements of the new fiscal compact.
First of all, it includes a commitment to ensure that, as a general rule, national budgets will be balanced at least, and that such balance is defined as the annual structural deficit not exceeding 0.5% of GDP. To give this national debt brake or ‘golden rule’ maximum legal effect, Member States commit to enshrining it at constitutional or equivalent level. The Court of Justice will have competence to review proper transposition of this commitment. This is a sound foundation for sustainable medium- to long-term fiscal policies and a strong signal to the markets that European governments are serious about their new ‘stability culture’.
Secondly, the excessive deficit procedure under Article 126 of the Treaty, which, as you know, applies to all 27 Member States, will apply in a stricter way for the euro area Member States. In future, the euro area Member States will commit to accepting true automaticity for triggering the deficit procedure from the moment when a Member State breaches its commitment to reduce deficits. The same automaticity will apply throughout the whole procedure for any ensuing steps proposed by the Commission, including the preventive arm. Only a qualified majority against the Commission proposal would be able to stop the process.
The new commitment will add to the ‘six-pack’ automaticity for which this House fought so hard. It will put the Commission at the heart of ensuring fiscal discipline, in line with your position. We will accept this increased responsibility knowing that its democratic legitimacy derives from this House and that it is here that we will be held accountable for our objectiveness and our resolve.
All in all, the agreement on substance at this summit is quite impressive.
But frankly, we cannot say the same on form. The reason why it took until 5 a.m. on Friday morning to reach this agreement was not the substance, but was mainly the form. The debate was on whether this should happen through a revision of the European Union Treaties, involving all 27 Member States and all the European Union institutions, or should it be outside this framework, with a new treaty? As you know, in the interim report presented to the Heads of State or Government, the President of the European Council, together with the President of the Euro Group and myself, tabled proposals in line with a treaty revision involving all 27 Member States and all the European institutions. Personally, I made every possible effort to agree this fiscal compact fully within the current Treaties.
This approach required that all 27 Member States played their part. As you know, one Member State was opposed to amending the Lisbon Treaty. The United Kingdom, in exchange for giving its agreement, asked for a specific protocol on financial services which, as presented, was a risk to the integrity of the internal market. This made compromise impossible. All the other Heads of State or Government were left with the choice between paying this price or moving ahead without the UK’s participation and accepting an international agreement among themselves.
In search of compromise, I tabled a clause providing, in the European Union Treaties, that any measures adopted by the Council and applying to the euro area only must not undermine the internal market, including in financial services, nor constitute discrimination between the euro area Member States and the others. Unfortunately, this compromise proved impossible and so it was not possible to have a solution that could allow all 27 Member States to agree in the framework of the current Treaties.
On a more positive note, I must also say that I was encouraged by the resolve of almost all the Member States to have more, not less, integration, to make more, and not less, use of the Community method and the European institutions, and to work for more, and not less, coherence.
Most Member States made it clear that they do not want to circumvent the Community method and the European institutions. They do not want to diminish the executive role of the Commission nor the prerogatives of this Parliament. The agreement will not replace Union institutions and procedures but will, on the contrary, build on them. And at my request, they have made a clear commitment to integrating the agreement fully into European Union law as soon as possible. This will need to be strongly reflected in the legal text now.
The Commission will do all it can so that this agreement is legally safe and institutionally acceptable. The Commission will contribute to these negotiations as Guardian of the European Union Treaties and of our institutional model.
Let me be clear: the Commission will not accept any intergovernmental treaty that would be in conflict with Union law. I will take a direct interest in this question and I am sure Parliament will do so as well. In fact, I expect that Parliament will also be associated with these negotiations.
So, you may ask, how can we square the circle concretely? How can we progress by way of an international agreement, without eroding the Community method?
This point will require our utmost attention and our joint scrutiny over the next days and weeks. In my view, the best way of doing it is to follow a basic principle: the agreement should contain stronger national commitments, but the European Union institutions should act exclusively on the basis of the European Union Treaties. Thus, we will apply the European Union’s monitoring and correction system as reinforced by the ‘six-pack’, and there will be no other parallel or competing structures.
The Commission, acting pursuant to the European Union Treaties, will monitor how Member States have been living up to their additional commitments made in this agreement. I intend to make full use of Article 136, by proposing to this House all the legislation that will be needed to make this construction work, to tie this fiscal compact back to European Union law and to buttress it with the democratic legitimacy of this Parliament.
Fortunately, we have not seen a split of the European Union between the 17 and the other ten. This was the greatest risk ahead of the summit. This is not an agreement at 17 plus, but an agreement at 27 minus.
Last week, most Heads of State or Government of the Member States showed their readiness to move ahead with European integration, towards a fiscal stability union. They showed that they want more Europe, not less.
Of course, this was not the only subject at the European Council: some other important issues were also discussed last week, such as the annual growth survey, enlargement and energy. I will come back to these tomorrow when we will assess the results of the European Union’s work during the Polish Presidency of the Council. At this moment, I just want to highlight the historic agreement that was signed for Croatia to join our Union.
It is indeed very important that Member States agreed on a fiscal compact, but let me say that this is not enough. The problems in the euro area are not only fiscal but also financial, and, above all, problems related to lack of competitiveness. We need to restore growth and promote employment. The commitment to fiscal discipline is indispensable for Europe, but the reality is that structural reforms for competitiveness and growth-enhancing measures are the key to restoring not only the confidence of investors but also, above all, the confidence of our citizens.
This is why I insist on the need to pursue the comprehensive approach that the Commission has presented in our road map for stability and growth. I hope Parliament and the Member States will support this line and work together for the deepening of the internal market, including the rapid implementation of existing commitments on services, energy, innovation, the digital agenda and free trade agreements, and for swift adoption of pending proposals to enhance growth, such as support for SMEs, better regulation, tax initiatives, fast-tracking proposals, especially those that extend the benefits of the Single Market, and, last but not least, targeted investment at European Union level, including through project bonds. Yes, we need investment at European level, and that is why our MFF proposal – and, for instance, the Connecting Europe Facility addressing the issue of the missing links in networks – is so relevant for Europe’s growth and employment prospects.
Finally, I wish to highlight that, even if today, attention is turned elsewhere, green growth remains key to employment in Europe. This is why I welcome the conclusions from Durban, with all major emitters agreeing for the first time to have a new comprehensive and binding legal instrument which will include limits on CO2 emissions. This was only possible because of the leadership from the European Union: I am very proud of the role of the Commission in this matter. This shows that, with consistence and coherent efforts, Europe is able to put its mark on global agreements.
The same kind of coherence and persistence will now be needed for implementation of the growth agenda for the European Union. This is exactly what our citizens expect from us: a Europe of responsibility, yes, but also a Europe of solidarity; a Europe of stability, yes, but also a Europe of growth and employment.
Joseph Daul, on behalf of the PPE Group. – (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the European Council opened the way, last Thursday and Friday, to governance of the euro area. It showed that the period of waiting, uncertainty and divisions is now behind us and that an end to the crisis is finally in sight.
Twenty-six out of 27 States have demonstrated their desire to revert to a healthy finance policy by establishing strict rules allowing for a return to balanced budgets and a reduction in public debt, and by agreeing to incorporate those rules in their constitutions and ensuring that any instances of non-compliance are punished.
Twenty-six out of 27 States have shown a sense of responsibility by ensuring that their main political and economic decisions are taken jointly, and by developing crisis mechanisms to be implemented by the European Central Bank (ECB). Twenty-six out of 27 States have conceded that shared sovereignty is preferable to sovereignty held hostage by markets. In short, the spirit of cooperation has prevailed over the attempt to create divisions. Determination has proved stronger than indecision.
Three major issues still need to be resolved: that of the nature of the new agreement, that of the United Kingdom’s place in Europe and the attitude of the 26 towards it, and, finally, that of the crucial ‘growth’ strand of our economic policy.
Ladies and gentlemen, since the United Kingdom has refused to support the decision taken by its counterparts, the resulting project is not a Community one, as we were hoping, and as I have often said, but an intergovernmental one. This situation presents us with a number of problems, not only legal problems, but political problems, too. My group calls for the European institutions to be fully involved in the discussions that will culminate in the drafting of the new provisions between now and March, and, in particular, for Parliament to be accorded its rightful place in this process so that it can ensure its democratic legitimacy.
I solemnly call upon Mr Van Rompuy and Mr Barroso to work closely with the European Parliament. We must ensure, in fact, that no radical changes are made to the spirit and the letter of what has been done for the last 60 years and what has made European integration the success that it is. Cohesion must continue to prevail over power struggles, something which only the Community method can ensure.
The second major issue raised by the decision of 9 December concerns the United Kingdom’s place in Europe, and I will come to this. I respect the decisions that were made but, clearly, the UK’s isolation shows that its government sees the European Union as nothing but a free trade area, and that it has no interest in showing solidarity with, and acting responsibly towards, its partners. To my mind, this calls for a change in behaviour towards the country by the 26 and also, to some extent, within the European institutions. In particular, I believe that the UK rebate should be called into question, since the resources of our fellow citizens should be used for something other than rewarding selfish, nationalist attitudes. Solidarity is not a one-way street. It is time Mr Cameron’s coalition government was made to realise that and was reminded of its obligations, in particular, with regard to the financial regulation rules from which it even requested an exemption, which fortunately was refused.
The third and final issue relates to the ‘growth and employment’ strand of our economic policy. Of course, there will be no growth unless we put our public accounts in order, but the Union must now set about strengthening and developing its industrial activities, exports and competitiveness with the same level of energy and coordination. Indeed, Europe will not resolve the crisis permanently without a radical two-pronged approach consisting of sound management, on the one hand, and growth, on the other.
As far as Parliament is concerned, I believe that we need to work closely with the Commission, on the basis of the proposals it made two months ago. I believe that we must do so, Mr President, in order to overcome the crisis, and that we must vote by a very large majority in February.
This is what I propose as ‘homework’ for the Christmas holiday, and on that note, I wish all of you and your families a very happy Christmas.
(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))
William (The Earl of) Dartmouth (EFD), Blue-card question. – Mr President, it sounded in Mr Daul’s speech as if he was making a threat to the United Kingdom. Perhaps the translators got it wrong. Can you confirm, Mr Daul, that in your speech as Chairman of the EPP Group and on behalf of the EPP Group, that you were indeed threatening that the United Kingdom’s well deserved rebate be reduced or taken away? Can you confirm that you did indeed make that threat?
Joseph Daul (PPE), Blue-card answer. – (FR) Mr President, I would like to reassure my fellow Member. With Christmas nearly upon us, I have neither a tank nor a Kalashnikov. Therefore, he is not in any danger over the Christmas holiday; you can be sure of that, Lord Dartmouth.
Secondly, I clearly said that, if, as I believe, the United Kingdom has given up on showing solidarity with the other 26 States for now, then I do not see why the 26 should make a further concession regarding the budget. Let me be quite clear: this is not a declaration of war; it is simply about ensuring that solidarity is shown between everyone and not just one way. That is all!
Martin Schulz, on behalf of the S&D Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we have heard the statements from the Council and the results of the Council meeting from Mr Van Rompuy and also from Mr Barroso. Let us now talk about what really happened. The announcement that this Council meeting would bring stability to the markets was wrong. The reaction of the so-called markets over recent days does not show any signs of stability. There was no response concerning the role of the European Central Bank, which was a controversial topic before this Council meeting. Nothing at all was said on the subject of a pact for growth, employment and stability in Europe based on job creation. The answer to the problem of financing the crisis countries, which will have to make several hundred billion euro available on the markets in the first three months of next year, and which currently have bond spreads of more than 7%, was wrong.
What is happening with the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF)? Why is it being brought forward? What will happen in the period before it comes into force? Will it be granted a banking licence? There was no answer to any of these questions. Do you call this a stability union? Now we come to the behaviour of the United Kingdom. We have given urgent warnings about even starting a debate on the Treaty, because it is obvious to everyone that if you start the debate on the Treaty, there will be attempts at blackmail involving a commitment to agree to Treaty reform only if a certain price is paid. What price did the British Prime Minister demand? An opt-out from the Working Time Directive, that is absolutely clear, and no further regulation of the financial markets. This is the price we would have to pay. I believe the fact that the other 26 states were not prepared to pay this price is a good sign. We cannot be blackmailed into introducing no more regulation by the very people who have pushed us into this severe financial market crisis, in other words, the financial markets themselves and the speculators in the City of London. That is not acceptable.
I had expected, Mr Van Rompuy, that you would say something to us about the European Parliament. ‘The involvement of the European Parliament’ was the only sentence in which you mentioned it. I was expecting a little more. Therefore, I would like you to answer two specific questions.
Firstly, is it correct that the Council has agreed to set up a Euro++ group consisting of the 17 euro countries, plus the countries which want to join, in the form of a working group chaired by you and including the European Parliament? If that is not the case, please tell us. If it is the case, I would like to ask you why you are not saying so. Mr Barroso, you want to fast track your proposals of 23 November. You can do that, but I must say to you that Parliament can only tackle this legislation with you on one condition, and that is if there is a guarantee that in all the subsequent stages, the European Parliament will sit at the table as the third partner, together with the Council and the Commission. Otherwise, I can only recommend to Parliament not to become involved in any subsequent stages.
We are hearing constant institutional debates and constant reflections as to how we can extricate ourselves from the mess which we have got ourselves into by taking temporary measures under the terms of the Treaty. Every time, and I have to say this once again and it is also directed at you, Mr Barroso, we are told that we need to regain the confidence of the markets. Whoever these markets might be, and I prefer to talk about speculators, banks, insurance companies and large fund investors, rather than markets, their interest lies only in maximising their capital. Are they really the people whose confidence we need to regain? No! How would it be if we were to discuss how we can finally regain the confidence of the people of Europe in the European Union?
As the parliamentary representatives of the citizens of Europe, we must guarantee that this happens. Therefore, I would like to say once again in conclusion that we in the European Parliament would be well advised, and I believe that my fellow Members will agree with me, when we sit together with the other institutions in Mr Van Rompuy’s working group between now and March, to make some alternative proposals of our own as to how we can create stability in the European Union, most importantly by supporting growth, employment and social security for the people of Europe. There will be no market-based democracy. What we need is a market which is subject to democratic rules and these rules must be drawn up and enacted here in the European Parliament.
Guy Verhofstadt, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (NL) Mr President, I am going to speak in my native language, because, on this particular day, English does not seem to be the appropriate language to use. It took Belgium more than 540 days to form a government and everyone poked fun at us. However, the euro crisis has been going on for more than 700 days and we, here, need to have the honesty to recognise that we have still not got it under control and that the end is still not in sight.
I believe that we ought, above all, to underline the positive aspects of the recent summit, something which has yet to be done here. One of those is that we have finally abandoned and thrown out the accursed, disastrous Deauville deal. That, you will remember, was the casino compromise. The deal that was the spawn of President Sarkozy’s obsession and Prime Minister Merkel’s kiss of death. The obsession of Mr Sarkozy, who thought – and, I believe, still thinks – that he and the large euro area countries should be the ones running the show, not the European institutions, not the European Commission. That is an illusion which has now been banished once and for all, and that is good, because it will put an end to the impunity which France and Germany granted themselves, back in 2003, to refuse to apply the rules whenever they themselves breached them.
In my view, another positive aspect of last Friday’s summit is that we have also got rid of Ms Merkel’s kiss of death, namely, the idea that private investors in government bonds should take their cut of the profits. Obviously, that idea sounded fine and it went down well here, in this House, too, but, in reality, as Mr Trichet indicated previously, that has cost us billions of euro and has only made the euro crisis worse. We ought to be pleased that this summit has achieved that. There were two people who came out of the summit with a broad smile on their face: Mr Sarkozy and Ms Merkel. Why exactly were they smiling? Because we put an end to the deal that they forged a year earlier. That has been the outcome of this summit.
Will that be enough, though? Will this spell the return of American, Asian and European investors who have offloaded large quantities of European countries’ government bonds in recent days and weeks? Will they again start investing in the shares of European financial institutions, mostly French financial institutions which themselves have government bond portfolios? Well, I have my doubts. Could this agreement be enough to stop the haemorrhage? Sadly, I believe that it will not be enough to restore confidence in the euro.
Why so, you may ask. The fact is that the European Council has addressed only one aspect of the problem, that of budgetary discipline; we are still playing catch-up with the facts and, yet, refusing to take up the solidarity aspect with the government leaders. Ladies and gentlemen, a monetary union is not only about discipline, it is also about solidarity. It works the other way around, too: it is not only about solidarity, but about discipline, too. Discipline without solidarity means that you do not have a Union at all and solidarity without discipline creates a bottomless money pit.
Mr President, from this day forward, we cannot afford to hesitate. The crisis must be addressed across the board and in depth. Let us be honest about it and recognise that the Council does not have the competence to achieve that. The Council has already met on so many occasions over the last two years, and, yet, each time it has come up with halfway measures. I believe that we, as Parliament, should take the lead here; it is we who need to mark out the road that will lead us out of the crisis. We need to ask the Commission to work with the European Parliament over the coming weeks to put an overall approach on the table, that of the Council and that of Parliament.
Finally some words in English to our British friends. I think that after a few nights, David Cameron will also come to the conclusion that he made the blunder of a lifetime. If Mr Cameron really wants to obtain additional guarantees for the City, he needs to be at the negotiation table. Why? Because in politics, there is one golden rule: you only walk away if you are sure that the others will come after you to win you back. That is the reality. Kohl and Mitterrand did it with Mrs Thatcher. To use an English expression for our British friends: When you are invited to the table, it is either as a guest or you are part of the menu. Dear colleagues, that can happen now.
(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))
Joseph Daul (PPE), Blue-card question. – (FR) Mr President, very briefly, I would just like to ask my fellow Member to explain the liberal governments’ positions on Europe.
Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE), Blue-card answer. – (FR) I thought that it was a question for Ms Wortmann-Kool, because she is in government.
Let us be serious here, Mr Daul. If there is currently one political party that is defending the European interest, in this House, then it is the Liberal Democrats, in the United Kingdom, who are daring to say ‘no’ to Mr Cameron today. Who else is doing so?
Rebecca Harms, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, it is nice that we can still find something to laugh about, even in the midst of the crisis. While I watched events unfolding last Friday at the summit in Brussels – in the European Parliament’s traditional role that we are now supposed to continue playing in future – I had the impression that, in comparison with the way in which the crisis has developed, this summit has nothing whatsoever to do with the crisis as it appears to us at the moment. Greece, whose problems have not been resolved after years of debate, and now several older European countries are threatened by state bankruptcy. In the opinion of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the European Union is on the brink of or has perhaps even started to enter a recession. My experience of this summit is that it is a summit of total denial.
I am not just referring to Mr Cameron. Like everyone else, I thought it was good that he was pushed into a corner. We can no longer put up with the British strategy of self-interest and protecting the City, which Mr Schulz has rightly described as one of the roots of all the problems that we now have to deal with. However, while Mr Cameron stood in the corner which he had chosen for himself, the question remained: what now? This is where the denial continued. I saw a denial of reality and at its heart lay, in my opinion, a narrow-minded and irresponsible analysis of the crisis by Ms Merkel.
She maintains that sovereign debt is the problem and that it is the sole and central problem which has caused this crisis. Therefore, her only response is to say that austerity policies are the means by which we will emerge from the crisis. I cannot bear this any more, because the situation we are in today is the result of this one-sided austerity mentality which the Germans have imposed on the entire European Union.
What we expected was a sign of resilient European solidarity. Contrary to the advice of the economic experts in Germany, not a single word has been said about a debt redemption fund. The banking licence for the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) was not a topic for discussion. That is not acceptable, because we must put ourselves in the position where we can give a central guarantee for European government bonds, a subject which the Poles talked about during their Council Presidency until they were blue in the face. The banking licence for the EFSF would be the simple and obvious way of achieving this. However, it was refused, as were measures to combat the recession. Whenever I hear your old story, Mr Barroso, about sustainable development in the European Union, and I have been hearing it since the time of the Lisbon strategy, I ask myself where and how it will finally come about. It was not discussed at this summit.
Ms Merkel was defeated on the subject of creditor participation. We can have a dispute about this, but it no longer exists, despite the fact that Ms Merkel fought for it so strongly. If there is no creditor participation, the question which I believe is still outstanding is the entire issue of justice. We must not jointly take on the burdens imposed by the crisis while those people who benefited from our debts before and during the crisis and whose assets are actually our debts emerge from the crisis completely unscathed.
One important topic for discussion is how we can involve the wealthy people in future if there is no creditor participation.
The summit failed to meet its objectives. It was a summit which involved a denial of reality and of democracy. We were not given any answers to the serious questions of the crisis, but we did get an announcement which ran contrary to European democracy. I find it unbearable that during the crisis, we are being fobbed off with piecemeal measures like this intergovernmental stability treaty which is being put alongside the European Treaties, whatever that may mean. I am pleased that the chairs of the groups in Parliament decided yesterday to table a resolution in January in which we will explain the responses that can be made to the crisis now without Treaty change. I believe that the economy and solidarity union which I and my group would like to see will not be possible if the Treaty is not changed. However, everything I have mentioned that must be done in response to the crisis is also possible without changing the Treaty.
Jan Zahradil, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, I think we can hardly call it a success. We have seen another emergency measure which aims to restore fiscal stability – definitely a step in the right direction, but not sufficient. We have not seen any proposals on how to restore economic growth in Europe and we have seen Europe more divided that ever before in an unprecedented way.
Some of you are still talking about 26 and I do not think that any of you are entitled to speak on behalf of 26. So please stop it, it is not true. None of you are entitled to speak for 26 member countries. We have 17 eurozone countries and even those are divided into two parts – those who will pay and those who will be paid. I am sorry for Germany, The Netherlands, Austria and Finland – guys, you will pay a whole lot of money and your taxpayers will probably thank you very much for that. Then we have of course nine non-eurozone countries that might or might not join the plan. This is still under question and some of them might be very reluctant.
Of course there is the issue of the United Kingdom, which some of you decided to make a scapegoat for all that mess. I have to defend this country, because what Mr Cameron did was just a defence of his country’s national interest in the same way that Mr Sarkozy and Mrs Merkel did. They pretend that they are speaking on behalf of Europe, but they are speaking on behalf of themselves only. So you have no reason to criticise the United Kingdom, nor its government.
I think where we are now is very clear. We are in the situation of a multi-speed Europe. It is a reality. When times get hard, when times get tough, the Community method evaporates and we go into governmental. When we go into governmental, the Commission and Parliament are completely sidelined, and if we are going into governmental, there is an open question about the legal validity of that intergovernmental treaty or agreement – or whatever you call it – and its compatibility with EU primary law. But the truth is that we are in a situation of a multi-speed Europe and where we are now is a result of a misleading, ever-closer Union policy and a one-size-fits-all effort.
We will pay economically very dearly for that. We will pay very dearly for that wrong ideologically-motivated strife to maintain the eurozone at any cost. I can only repeat that this is not the EU policy for the 21st century. You might like it or not, but if you do not get it, you might perhaps scrape through this crisis, but others will inevitably come and their consequences might be detrimental.
(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))
Jörg Leichtfried (S&D), Blue-card question. – (DE) Mr President, Mr Zahradil, you have just mounted an astonishingly vehement defence of Mr Cameron. You have also said that he is protecting the interests of taxpayers. The only people Mr Cameron is protecting are the multimillionaires, the speculators and the financial sharks. No one else, Mr Zahradil. I would like to ask you: if Mr Cameron continues on this path, will you be pleased about this? The United Kingdom will probably then become another Cayman Island with a lot of bank accounts, a lot of multimillionaires and no jobs. It is only the weather that is not as good.
Jan Zahradil (ECR), Blue-card answer. – Mr President, I am very much afraid that it seems that Mr Leichtfried, as a member of the Socialist Group, seems to misunderstand a little bit the role of the financial sector in the European economy. This is not only a question of the City; this is a question of the entire prosperity of the entire European Union because I can assure you, Mr Leichtfried, that our economies are mutually intertwined. If one economy suffers, the others will suffer as well.
Lothar Bisky, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (DE) Mr President, Mr Van Rompuy, Mr Barroso, ladies and gentlemen, the EU summit was supposed to bring about a breakthrough in the process of resolving the international financial crisis. It has undoubtedly not succeeded in doing so, because too many issues have been ignored and there has been a one-sided focus on reducing public debt and budgetary supervision. Even much of this was very unspecific. It may have given us a breathing space, but nothing more.
The much-talked-about confidence of the markets cannot be regained by imposing an austerity policy based on the German model. The causes of the financial crisis are varied in nature, but the failure of independent bodies and, most importantly, the political system to manage or monitor the unregulated financial markets is the decisive factor. If we apply this standard, it is clear that the leading politicians of the 27 EU Member States once again did not want or were unable to take action.
Increasing the financial power of the instruments which are intended to prevent speculation by bringing forward by one year the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) that amounts to EUR 500 billion, by continuing in parallel with the European Financial Stability Facility, and by extending the involvement of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with EUR 200 billion, will only guarantee that the banks will have their loans repaid and make a healthy profit on the interest. This is how the governments of the euro countries want to play the game with the financial markets, but they forget that they are in the weaker position. Most importantly, the failed attempt to leverage the rescue funds demonstrates the power and the powerlessness of the policy.
The main opponent within the EU of regulating the international financial markets has gone into self-imposed isolation. Hopefully, decisive action will now be taken to tackle this problem, at least within the euro area and the EU Member States which want to join the euro. The first step must be to implement the international transaction tax quickly. Next, the most dangerous new financial products must simply be banned. This also applies to the activities of the shadow banks. The European Union can and must make progress and set an example in this area. If EU banks try to evade regulation in other parts of the world, they will be threatened with the removal of state rescue packages in the case of a crisis.
Their business can ultimately be placed under state supervision or they can be nationalised. This would be an appropriate response to a systemic crisis. The consequences of the international crisis, which has been going on since 2008, are already unbearable for the vast majority of citizens. Young people’s plans for the future, provisions for the working population and the life’s work of millions of people have already been destroyed, with the most serious impact being felt, of course, in the crisis countries of Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy. However, the citizens of all EU countries are affected by the excessive austerity measures. They are the culmination of the neoliberal policy of deregulation and privatisation and the redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top. This policy over the last 15 years is what has taken us into the crisis and, therefore, it must be stopped and reversed.
We can only ensure that public interests are served and that the welfare state is maintained by restraining blind market forces. Austerity measures will not stimulate growth and will not lead us out of the crisis.
Nigel Farage, on behalf of the EFD Group. – Mr President, I have often asked myself the question: why would a successful country that has enjoyed a thousand years of independence give up its right of self-government to the unelected nonentities that we see sitting before us this morning? The answer that comes back from the Foreign Office and the great and the good is that we must have influence in Europe. We must have a seat at the top table and we can change things. We have done our best to prove what good Europeans we are. We go on paying you GBP 50 million a day. We have helped the euro bailout fund, even though we did not join the currency, thank goodness. We have given you 80% of the fish stocks that swim in our waters – your fleets can come and take that from us – and we have applied every directive you have given us absolutely to the letter, all of it to gain influence. In fact, Nick Clegg is so deluded he still thinks we can take the lead in Europe.
When a British Prime Minister goes to a summit with a very modest proposal to protect a uniquely important British industry, a snarling President Sarkozy tells him where to go, with German approval of course, and we find ourselves without a friend in the room. Some influence! Well you have decided to head off on the Titanic towards economic and democratic disaster, and we are now in a lifeboat outside the Titanic, but we are threatened by a bow wave that is going to come and engulf us if we are not careful – and it is retribution. We have heard the language of retribution this morning. Financial markets legislation is going to be imposed upon Britain and we will have no influence whatsoever over any of it.
Something changed though on Friday. Mr Cameron may not know it, but we are now on course: Britain is going to make the great escape. We are going to get out of this Union. We will be the first European country to get our freedom back. I suspect many others will follow, and then what we will have is our democracy back, our liberty back, and we will have influence in the world as you lot head for disaster. It is going to happen.
(Applause from the EFD Group)
(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))
Alyn Smith (Verts/ALE), Blue-card question. – Mr President, I am grateful to the Member for accepting a question. Given that the actions, the very selfish actions, of Prime Minister David Cameron in uniquely achieving nothing for the one square mile of the 86 000 square miles of the United Kingdom have achieved nothing but actually undermined the 26 other Member States trying to solve this crisis, would he agree with me that Prime Minister Cameron may well have made a couple of people in his own party happy and that he may well have made a couple of people in the Member’s party happy? He did not speak on behalf of the Labour Party, the Greens, the Liberals – well not all of the Liberals anyway. He certainly did not speak on behalf of the people of Scotland, with one representative at the Westminster Parliament from my country. He certainly did not speak on behalf of the aspirations of the Scottish Parliament. Would he agree with me that, if he does achieve the aim that he has facilitated and the United Kingdom does leave this place, the people of Scotland will do considerably better representing ourselves, free from London rule, as part of this family of nations as a constructive partner?
Nigel Farage (EFD), Blue-card answer. – Mr President, I have to say that that is a very difficult question to answer because there were half of dozen of them thrown in there.
David Cameron did what he had to do; he was forced into an impossible position but, you are right, Mr Smyth: he has gained no concessions whatsoever and he has actually now left the United Kingdom even more vulnerable than it was before. We are in a permanent voting minority, we simply have not got a friend in the room, and we have heard this morning that they want to have our rebate, they want financial market legislation.
However, he has opened a debate in Britain. The European debate has now started in earnest. Cameron does not know what he has unleashed. I think the momentum for us to have a referendum to divorce ourselves from these failing structures and to replace them with a genuine free trade agreement now has an unstoppable momentum, and that is good for the UK and it is good for Scotland. It will be good for your financial sector based in Edinburgh and will provide many, many jobs for Scottish people.
Nicole Sinclaire (NI). – Mr President, Mr Cameron stated in Westminster yesterday that only two options confronted him at last week’s summit: a new treaty without the negotiated safeguards for Britain or no treaty at all. He rightly chose no treaty. But with this failure, he left his and the Conservative Party’s EU policy in tatters. He mistakenly and naively promised the British people that he could repatriate powers from the EU, and that he could safeguard British interests. But such negotiations are not possible with the European Union, a Union that blatantly and negligently disregards sensible economic rules. You even broke your own rules in the Maastricht criteria just so that your beloved political project of European federalisation could move one step further. In your negligent actions, you cause financial hardship for people across Europe, people you constantly ignore in referendums. You deny them even the opportunity to have their say.
To protect our interests, my country was right not to go along with your economic negligence. Even Ms Harms said that the summit denied reality and denied democracy. The British Prime Minister, having had his electoral pledge on renegotiating Britain’s relationship with the EU undermined and discredited, has finally faced up to the inevitable by refusing to have any part in the latest doomed rescue plan. Mr Cameron’s EU policy of negotiation is now in tatters and only a referendum on Britain’s future membership of the EU is a viable solution. Democratic integrity demands nothing less. The British people demand nothing less.
Werner Langen (PPE). – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, introducing stricter regulations will strengthen the credibility of the euro countries. I agree with Mr Barroso and Mr Van Rompuy on this. The fact that this includes balanced budgets, Ms Harms, does not mean that it constitutes an austerity policy and it is also nothing new. This forms part of the Treaty of Maastricht, but it has simply not been complied with.
My second point is that the United Kingdom must come to a decision. I see that Mr Farage has gone again. Mr Cameron has indeed isolated himself and he is not and will not become another Maggie Thatcher. He has completely miscalculated. The internal market is important for us and for everyone else. However, if someone says that they want a right of veto, this means that the provisions of the Treaty of Lisbon no longer apply. The Treaty of Lisbon itself states that we make decisions on the basis of qualified majorities in the Council and in Parliament. What Mr Farage is calling for is also nothing new. It is simply compliance with the existing Treaty.
The future EU Treaty will strengthen the euro area, but there must not be any parallel structures. Therefore, new rules are needed which also, in our opinion, must sooner or later be integrated into the Treaty of Lisbon. Mr Van Rompuy and Mr Barroso, observer status is not enough for Parliament. We do not want to be fobbed off with the role of observer. Instead, we want to be involved in the changes to the Treaty and the rules.
I noticed that Mr Schulz spoke about the financial markets, but neither he nor Mr Verhofstadt said anything about the content of the agreement. I read today in the newspapers that the French presidential candidate, Mr Hollande, is calling everything into question. He wants the European Central Bank (ECB), he wants Eurobonds, he wants a rescue fund, but he does not want a debt brake. I would like to have heard a statement from the chair of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament about what he will do if there is a different election result and his party colleague becomes president. All of this remains open. It is important that we become involved, but it is also important that we share responsibility for the content and we will do so.
David-Maria Sassoli (S&D). – (IT) Mr President, the conclusions of the European Council were not what we were expecting, given that the Treaty of Lisbon does, in fact, provide the elements and possible coverage to put forward credible solutions.
We had called for Eurobonds and a financial transaction tax, an increase in the bail-out fund and a review of the role of the European Central Bank. As you yourselves have said this morning, however, nothing was decided on any of those points.
The Council’s response was budget discipline to curb the erosion of financial resources, but without investing in growth. This was a meagre outcome based on an agreement among 26 countries, reached after a tortuous procedure, which we have always rejected.
Mr President, Mr Van Rompuy, Mr Barroso, by excluding the Commission and the European Parliament, the Council chose to add a democracy deficit to the budget deficit.
We have a two-speed Europe, Mr President: the Europe of the Member States and the Europe of the people. Parliament supports the Europe of the people, and I call on President Barroso to have the Commission side with us.
Alexander Graf Lambsdorff (ALDE). – (DE) Mr President, I am rather surprised. This morning on the German radio station Deutschlandfunk, Mr Schulz was celebrating the agreement on the ‘six-pack’ as the hour in which the European Parliament demonstrated its importance and I completely agree with him about this. However, he failed to mention that the left wing of this House did, of course, vote against the ‘six-pack’ and has now also taken up a position opposing the results of the summit, balanced budgets and effective sanctions. This does not add up. I am sorry, but we have a debt union. We must have balanced budgets. We need sensible mechanisms which will allow us to achieve this. That is what was decided at the summit. In overall terms, the results are an effective way of allowing us to move from being a debt union to becoming a stability union.
However, on one point I agree with him and my other fellow Members: this will become a government agreement. As a result, the risk of a democratic deficit and of a lack of acceptance by the citizens is very real. Therefore, it is very important that the parliaments, both this House and the national parliaments, are very closely involved in this process.
My third point, Mr Barroso, concerns something that is important to me. Of course it is essential that what is decided in this fiscal compact is transferred into the Treaties. To do this, we just need the agreement of the United Kingdom at some point. However, it may possibly be the case that we will be forced to do things the other way round. We may need to see this fiscal compact as the founding of a new European Union, as closer integration and as the starting signal for a new project. Nevertheless, I would like to make it clear that we want the British to be involved.
Mr Daul, the countries where Liberal parties are in government are those where the public finances are largely in good shape: Estonia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Sweden. These are the countries where the Liberals are in government. In the countries where the Conservatives are in power without Liberals to apply corrective measures, such as Italy, Greece and Portugal, things look a little different. The Liberal position is very clear in that respect.
(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))
Martin Schulz (S&D), Blue-card question. – (DE) Mr President, firstly, I would like to say that it gives me great pleasure that Ms Wortmann-Kool listens to the German radio station Deutschlandfunk in the morning. That is definitely a good thing.
Secondly, Mr Lambsdorff, I would be grateful if you would be so kind as to make your statement more precise. This morning on Deutschlandfunk, I said, in response to an insinuation that the European Parliament had nothing to say, that we have adopted the legislation which we and the Council have been discussing all this time. Is that correct? That is what I said. I did not make any remarks about majorities or minorities, but only about an institutional fact. Could you tell me why you are criticising me over this?
Alexander Graf Lambsdorff (ALDE), Blue-card answer. – (DE) Mr President, I take every appropriate and inappropriate opportunity to praise Ms Wortmann-Kool.
To put it simply, no one disputes the institutional point. Of course, this was one of the European Parliament’s finest hours. However, we are not only discussing institutional questions here today; we are also talking about overcoming the euro crisis and about the route towards a stability union.
(Heckling from Martin Schulz)
This is an important point. I am amazed by the tough stance taken by the entire left wing of this House in opposing the results of the summit, including Mr Steinmeier, who described the whole thing as a fiasco. With the best will in the world, I cannot understand this. It is in our common interest that the Member States in the euro area have balanced budgets and that they are monitored.
Pascal Canfin (Verts/ALE). – (FR) Mr President, there are two democratic institutions in Europe: the Council, which represents the Heads of State or Government, who have been elected, and the European Parliament, which is elected by universal suffrage.
For two years, the Council has had sole responsibility for resolving the crisis, and for two years, it has failed. It has failed every quarter by holding another last-chance summit. I will see you in another three months at the next last-chance summit, because last week’s summit completely failed to resolve the issues that were on the table.
When you listen to the rating agencies – the infamous financial markets that you are keen to reassure – what do they say? They do not say, ‘more austerity, more discipline’. They say, ‘a comprehensive package including budgetary discipline’. No one is disputing the fact that we need to adopt this approach, but it is just one aspect of the package, not the only one. We are well aware that, today, with this package, with the outcome of this summit, you have added to the citizens’ concerns without even reassuring the markets. In other words, it is a complete waste of time. I shall see you again in three months’ time!
However, there is a second European institution that is democratic, namely the European Parliament. As Mr Schulz, Mr Daul and Ms Harms said, it is our responsibility to recognise today that we need to take the lead in establishing an alternative crisis plan, one that offers a different approach from that of the Council, which is all about failure.
It is our responsibility not just to vote on a resolution, but to use all the powers bestowed on us by the Treaties to their full extent, to shoulder our responsibilities and to be capable, between us, of reaching compromises. If we prove incapable of reaching compromises between us, then, at that point, we will no longer have the legitimacy to criticise others who are incapable of reaching them. However, we have three months to get there. We have a responsibility to do so; the people of Europe are watching us.
IN THE CHAIR: LIBOR ROUČEK Vice-President
Timothy Kirkhope (ECR). – Mr President, now is not the time for hysteria, exaggeration or melodrama on any side, here or anywhere else. We should analyse the events of last week coolly and calmly. The United Kingdom was not in the euro on Thursday, it was not in the euro on Saturday. Nothing changed. The United Kingdom wants to see a solution to the eurozone crisis, but not a solution at the expense of the single market, and competitiveness continues to be the key.
The UK is still a full member of the European Union and will remain so. We believe in our national interests that we should be part of the EU. The UK’s position on the euro is unique; we also have a major trading currency to protect. It makes sense for existing eurozone countries to strengthen the rules governing the euro in the future and it would seem logical for countries who aspire to join the euro to sign up to those rules also. It not only makes little sense but it seems unfair to make demands on the UK unless safeguards could be secured in major areas such as protecting the City, but also protecting Europe from the City too.
We need to have a strategy to deal with the Greek and the wider sovereign debt problem. Underlining banking weakness, reducing budgetary debt, adjusting loan arrangements and improving capitalisation of our banks should, of course, still be the real priority of all our leaders today.
(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))
Vicky Ford (ECR), Blue-card question. – Mr Kirkhope, I heard Mr Daul promise that there would be no tanks or Kalashnikovs before Christmas. I hope he is taking a rather long view, not just a short-term one. Where do you think things will be in the spring?
Timothy Kirkhope (ECR), Blue-card answer. – Mr President, I was not aware that the close defence connection between the United Kingdom and France was going to produce a load of Kalashnikovs and tanks. After all, with De Gaulle’s tank strategies, the French are the best people to know about tanks.
What I would of course want is a little bit of speeding up in the joint programme to provide us with our aircraft carriers that both France and Britain need to defend freedom and democracy in Europe and elsewhere.
Paul Murphy (GUE/NGL). – Mr President, Mr Barroso is presumably fluent in the eurocratic new-speak that is contained in these documents. Can I ask him to help me translate some of the phrases that appear in last week’s agreement, for example, the ‘automatic sanctions’ proposed. Is it not the case that this actually refers to fines of hundreds of millions of euro for countries that dare to stray from the austerity policies imposed by the unelected Commission?
One refers innocuously to the ‘strengthening of economic and budgetary surveillance of Member States’. Is that not the same sort of surveillance as that exercised by colonial powers over their colonies? Is not the ‘fiscal stability union’ which this agreement proposes an austerity union in reality, where the cutback policies proposed will be institutionalised and will impoverish further millions and destroy further economies?
Mr Barroso, you have effectively suspended democracy in Greece and Italy, imposing government by the bankers for the bankers. Can I ask you to respect the democratic right of the people of Ireland to a referendum and not to wage a campaign of fear and blackmail against them. Surely people – not only in Ireland, but right across Europe – should have a right to decide freely about such a fundamental change which diminishes democracy and enshrines austerity?
Mario Borghezio (EFD). – (IT) Mr President, I am really afraid that the meagre, disappointing results of the Brussels summit mark an historic moment: the end of the historical inevitability of European unity. That should be a cause for concern, particularly to those who have always shown themselves to be enthusiastic about Europe. The summit was, in fact, a pointless farce that has not calmed speculation, let alone stopped it.
One fact certainly makes us realise that investors are afraid of a euro default soon. The European Banking Authority revealed it when it announced that some 40 banks in the European Economic Area have sold EUR 170 billion of credit default swaps (CDS) on Greek, Irish, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish bonds.
The soaring CDS market is a sure sign that the markets are afraid of a default, that there is a lack of confidence, that speculation is rising and that investors are waving goodbye to Europe, thus giving speculation free rein. The euro as a currency is heading for disaster, since the markets are tending to reject it. This is the result you have achieved. Congratulations!
Marine Le Pen (NI). – (FR) Mr President, the umpteenth last-chance European summit will most probably have the same outcome as that of previous summits.
By rushing headlong into technocratic federalism, while showing no regard whatsoever for the basic rules of democracy, this summit has set in stone the policy of austerity and the submission of national budgets to the dictates of the Commission and the Court of Justice, with automatic financial penalties for the States to boot. The markets dreamt about this, and the governments have done it.
The upshot will be a fall in consumption and an explosion in public debt. In other words, the sovereign debt problem is not behind us, but in front of us.
One issue remains, however, and it proves who the real beneficiaries of this umpteenth pointless summit are. Once again, priority is being given to the banking and financial sector, to the detriment of the States and taxpayers. Europeans are seeing the burden of private debt being placed on their shoulders, with the support of a political class at the service of the banks and the financial markets, and they are powerless to do anything about it. The people will not forgive you for that!
Mario Mauro (PPE). – (IT) Mr President, the Presidents of the Commission and the Council explained to us how things went at the European Council, but then Mr Schulz took the floor and explained to us how things really went at the European Council.
In my small way, I will confine myself to remarking that there was a clash of three positions – the British position, the position of the so-called Franco-German ‘Directoire’, and the position of the EU institutions.
I think it was good for everyone, and especially for each of our countries, that the Union institutions prevailed this time, because they made sure that the agreement was not limited to the 17 euro area countries, but was as inclusive as possible. The underlying problem remains, however, and therefore I ask you all to shoulder your responsibility and take every opportunity to tell the Franco-German ‘Directoire’ that enough is enough.
I say that not because I have anything to demand for my country, Italy, but because I think it is important that we all demand that Europe be given its proper role. I admire the leaders of France and Germany, but I realise that success for the European project on the path it has to tread will depend on the 27 countries and on the assurances that the EU institutions can give them.
I would therefore ask you to remember at all times, wherever you may be, that the right method is not to impose but to propose, and that that method should always be upheld by ensuring that everyone accepts individual responsibility, although the ultimate responsibility must lie with everyone together.
Udo Bullmann (S&D). – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, what does the result of the summit bring us? With regard to the automatic sanctions, I would simply like you to explain, gentlemen, what happens when a country has more than 3% debt in future and you want to apply automatic sanctions, but the country says that Article 126 and the current Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union apply. What will happen then? Then our finest hour, which Mr Lambsdorff has spoken about, will turn out not to have been so fine after all. It is a fake which is not worth the paper it is written on, because it does not change the real situation.
In legal terms, what have you actually done? As far as the economy goes, research institutes are saying that in the next two years, perhaps four of the 17 euro area countries will be in a position to achieve the structural deficit target that you have imposed. Possibly by 2015, but only if we can avoid a recession. However, if we take your route, without a growth initiative, we will find ourselves in the midst of a recession. It is a mistake to believe that we can achieve these targets without additional programmes for growth. How will we do it? What have you decided? Without the European Parliament, you will not be able to get out of the mess that you have got yourselves into. Take the opportunity to sit down at the table with the European Parliament and then you will still have a chance. Otherwise, you will find that there are no cards left on the table.
Marielle De Sarnez (ALDE). – (FR) Mr President, I believe that this agreement raises several issues. The first is as follows: this agreement has been presented as historic, decisive and the solution to the crisis. I am not at all convinced about that. I believe that it is just one more step, and not necessarily the best one, and that it will obviously not resolve the crisis. I fear that this is a negative response and, indeed, that adding a climate of legal uncertainty to the current climate of economic, social and financial uncertainty is not very sensible. That is my first point.
As for the content, we were told that budgetary discipline was going to be included in the constitutions. I believe that this agreement is unsound. We need a Europe that has budgetary discipline, on the one hand, and budgetary solidarity, on the other. As you said, Mr Barroso, we cannot have one without the other. All it would take is for plans to be made for Europe, via the ECB, to guarantee loans at favourable rates to indebted countries, provided that those countries undertake the necessary internal structural reforms, not because Europe is asking them to do so, but because they want to do so for themselves. In other words, the two must go hand in hand.
The last point, to finish: we are told that an intergovernmental Europe is going to be built. I think that this is a mistake. It is a mistake to give up on the inspiration behind the Community. It is a mistake to move away from the EU institutions, democracy and the democratic control of our institutions.
Derk Jan Eppink (ECR). – (NL) Mr President, François Hollande, the French presidential candidate, has recently written a book called The French Dream. He needed to write a whole book about something which I can sum up in a single sentence: that dream means having your cake and eating it. That is not only a French dream, but a European one, as well.
The only problem is: the money has run out now. And what are we doing? We are putting the blame on others. We say it is the fault of speculators, as Mr Schulz has done, a 1930s demagogy. However, there are pension funds and investment funds out there. And the Chinese investment fund: they are potential investors.
You blame the British. The British who, in more unsuspecting times, came up with a correct analysis of the euro. They said it was a dangerous project. They have now been proved right, but you cannot bear to acknowledge that. The shouting that you can hear here now is an expression of the frustration of the rottweilers of European federalism. This European Union needs investors. So what do we do? We come up with a financial transaction tax. Even the European Central Bank is against it. You, Mr Barroso, are turning the euro area not into an area of stability, but into an area of stagnation and an arena where the euro will fall.
Rolandas Paksas (EFD) . – (LT) Mr President, the decisions proposed by the Heads of State of the European Union are by no means the only ones or the best, but they are necessary and required. However, they are not enough and come too late. Yes, the market reacted after the decisions were announced, but I am sure that this is not the sort of reaction needed for the recovery and development of the markets. It is more like when an open flame is extinguished but the embers smoulder on.
I would also like to note that this is not the first time that the EU Member States and their leaders have not been quick enough to react to the new challenges and issues we are facing. The most important thing is not to put out the fire. Although that is important today, it is much more important to prevent that fire from starting and this is the direction in which we need to channel all of the actions and efforts of the European Council, the Commission and our Parliament.
Barry Madlener (NI). – (NL) Mr President, the summit of summits has turned out to be the flop of all flops. All the summit has led to is a schism within Europe. The United Kingdom has now turned its back on Europe, and that is a serious step that the UK has taken. Moreover, we have agreed sanctions for countries that are failing to repay their debts. They will, obviously, not be able to do that for a while yet, because it is a bit difficult to repay your debts in a recession. What I would like to warn you of is the fact that the European Union is about to become a union of unemployment. Ladies and gentlemen, 2012 will be the year of truth, because this union of debt has had it.
Economic growth in the Netherlands, one of the strongest economies of the Union, has now moved into recession. Unemployment in the Netherlands is increasing fast. Economic shrinkage next year will be around half a per cent and, I repeat, the Netherlands is one of the countries that is supposed to be repaying these debts, at least that is what this House has asked it to do time and again. That cannot go on forever, ladies and gentlemen.
This House can say that the Netherlands ought to allow more unemployed Poles onto its labour market, and that we should let Bulgarians and Romanians flood into our country, but the Dutch people will not put up with this any more. If unemployed Greeks come to the Netherlands, that will only create more unemployment in the Netherlands. The Greeks do not even want to go to the Netherlands, because they want to work in their own country and we ought to make sure that they are able to do that.
Corien Wortmann-Kool (PPE). – (NL) Mr President, it is a positive thing that the euro area countries last Friday rallied unanimously behind our common euro, despite the fact that there are still many question marks along the road to a new treaty. We must achieve stability quickly, because it is this constant turmoil that is damaging our economic growth and thereby the interests of our citizens.
However, we are also making great progress, because the ‘six-pack’ comes into force today and I, as rapporteur, am pleased about that. I am proud of the role we, as the European Parliament, have played. A strong role for the European Commission, a democratic role for the European Parliament and a high level of responsibility for Member States and national parliaments. I was also pleased with the interim report by President Van Rompuy because it builds on the ‘six-pack’. I wonder, though, if that is the direction you chose during the summit? Your report is clear when it comes to budgetary discipline, but it is vague when it comes to the further economic cooperation that is so necessary.
The letter from Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy, which came out at the same time as your report, calls for enhanced institutional cooperation with a leading role for government leaders and what it describes as the new preparatory structures. Government leaders who will appraise each other. That did not work in 2003 or in 2005 when it came to budgetary discipline, nor has it worked with the one-and-a-half-year Competition Pact; indeed, it has hardly produced any results.
I am therefore curious, President Van Rompuy, and while your optimism, President Barroso, is worthy of praise, which way we go will be decisive, for we not only need more monetary integration but also more economic integration, in order to save our common currency. That will only work if, not just we, but also our government leaders and our community institutions, are given a weighty role. Therefore, President Van Rompuy, President Barroso, Commissioner Rehn, we expect you to play a leading role. You can count on our support.
(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))
Niki Tzavela (EFD), Blue-card question. – (EL) Mr President, Ms Wortmann-Kool, I should like to put the following question to you, as you also acted as rapporteur on certain measures:
The President of the Council told us that the PSI procedure adopted has had a very negative impact. This very negative procedure currently being applied to Greece is not being applied to any other Member State of the European Union. As we sinners and offenders are subject to sanctions, should the Member States imposing erroneous policies that may well prove to be fatal to them not also be subject to sanctions?
Corien Wortmann-Kool (PPE), Blue-card answer. – (NL) Ms Tzavela, we are only going to be able to extricate ourselves from this crisis if we all accept our share of the responsibility for the painful measures necessary to restore budgetary health. We also need to accept such responsibility if we are to push through reforms aimed at making our economy healthy and creating jobs, not only for us, but for future generations, too.
I am very aware that that is painful for Greece at the moment, but it is necessary. However, this will apply to all our countries, including the Netherlands, if it should prove necessary to sorting out our household budget. When it comes to the involvement of the private sector, it seems to me very sensible that the Council has decided to limit private involvement, because the turmoil that has caused has had greater negative consequences than I would have liked, namely, the private sector adding to these debt problems.
Glenis Willmott (S&D). – Mr President, as leader of the Labour MEPs, it is clear to me that David Cameron has represented a bad deal for Europe and a bad deal for Britain. We have a Prime Minister who is willing to put the priorities of the extreme fringes of his party ahead of the interests of his country.
Some of the British Conservative Party talk about David Cameron’s bulldog spirit – standing up to Merkel and Sarkozy, using Britain’s veto – but the only thing David Cameron has vetoed is Britain’s influence at the top table. He has left our country isolated in Europe, without allies and without influence. As Mr Barroso said, not 17 plus, but 27 minus.
Cameron claims he was protecting the City of London, but in fact, he has failed to secure a single safeguard for UK financial services. He was trying to protect his friends in the City instead of protecting British jobs and growth, and he spectacularly failed in both.
The UK Government believes its actions have prevented the 26 from using the resources of the EU 27. This point needs clarifying. Could President Van Rompuy confirm whether this new treaty will be subject to the EU institutions and, in particular, the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, under Article 273?
Friday was not a good day for Britain, not a good day for diplomacy. Cameron left Britain high and dry. He has been stoking the fires of his party’s eurosceptics for years and now he is surrounded by flames with no obvious escape. It is a catastrophic failure of his leadership and a catastrophic decision for Britain. I say to Mr Verhofstadt that, if there is one political party in Britain standing up against Cameron and Clegg – do not forget that Clegg was part of this agreement – and their destructive policies, it is the British Labour Party.
(Applause from the left)
(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))
Nicole Sinclaire (NI), Blue-card question. – Mr President, as Ms Willmott knows, I am no big fan of Mr Cameron, but I think it is very disingenuous for a Labour politician to come here after 13 years of a Labour government where you deceived and distorted the European issue to the British people. You promised referendum after referendum but you failed to deliver one and called it whatever you wanted in order not to have it.
I think Mr Cameron has to deal with the mess of 13 years of Labour policy towards the EU. But here is my question. You mentioned about the Labour Party supporting the European Union but we have a party in government, the Liberal Democrats, that is actually currently supporting the Conservatives. Will you then call for the Liberal Democrats to withdraw from the coalition and force a general election so that we can have a proper debate on the European Union?
Glenis Willmott (S&D), Blue-card answer. – Mr President, I think it is about time that the Liberal Democrats actually took their responsibilities seriously. They have let this country down big time. Nobody in Britain voted for a coalition government. Nobody expected the Lib Dems to do the dirty, and they have.
Sharon Bowles (ALDE). – Mr President, the Presidents of the Council, the Commission and the Euro Group did as well as possible, given the limited input material. I abhor the veto deployed by Cameron. His demands were not moderate; they were a mix of an attempt to reverse agreed positions disguised as inaccurate invocations of Ecofin conclusions and interference in current legislative dossiers. It was a power grab reneging on agreed legislation. Crafted as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, it maybe fooled some Lib Dems in London, but it did not fool us or me. Asked to save the euro, Cameron gave in to his eurosceptic party. He has jeopardised UK interests, including those of the legitimate City, when there is nothing remaining in the agreement threatening the UK.
In this crisis, there is no worse time to have turned his back. His veto has made the summit result harder to deliver, more intergovernmental and less integrated with this House and the Community method. But I am sure that together, we will find ways to mitigate that effect and do more. I have not given up on Europe or the euro.
Daniel Hannan (ECR). – Mr President, the first lesson you learn if you are doing a lifesaving course is that a drowning person will try to drag his rescuer underneath. I felt rather like that this morning, on the receiving end of this minute’s hate because of the United Kingdom having kept the pound, being threatened with the terrors of the Earth. Of course it was very reminiscent of what we were told when we stayed out of the euro in the first place. How is that working out for you by the way, gentlemen?
There was overwhelming public support for the Prime Minister standing aside from this new fiscal union. As Mr Lambsdorff says, there are now effectively going to be two parallel treaty structures. There will be the EU and there will be the fiscal union, the FU – initials which, by the way, neatly summarise the attitude which eurozone leaders take to their own peoples. You are Irish and you are fed up with paying all this money to European bankers and bondholders: FU. You are Greek and you are thinking that devaluation might be preferable to this constant crisis: FU. You are a businessman and you do not want to fold to keep the euro together: FU.
Mr Verhofstadt, with that Olympian authority born of long banquets and long Euro-summits, said that the only possible reason to walk away is if the others will follow you. No, Mr Verhofstadt, there is a better reason to walk away: to preserve your democracy, to secure your independence, to keep fast the freedoms that you inherited from your parents and to pass them on intact to your children.
Philip Claeys (NI). – (NL) Mr President, it was only to be expected that this debate would, for the umpteenth time, turn into a kind of therapy session for the federalist members of this Parliament.
There is definitely a system error in the euro area, and that system error lies in the fact that the socio-economic fabric of the Member States is too varied to enable the euro area to function in a sustainable and healthy way. This may be a depressing reality, but it is reality, nonetheless. We should therefore urgently do away with the taboo against advocating a smaller but stronger euro area.
If we, as a Parliament, still want to be taken seriously, we would do well to adopt realistic positions and abandon the systematic flight forward. The systematic steps towards Eurobonds and a central bank, a European Central bank that will do nothing but fan inflation. Collectivisation of debt, which is what the majority of this House wants, will entrench the problems in the longer term rather than resolve them. This will lead to a Belgian situation, a situation of total ungovernability.
Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE). – (FR) Mr President, Mr Van Rompuy, Mr Barroso, I should like to begin by saying a few words about currencies.
The 19th century was dominated by the pound sterling, the 20th century by the dollar; in the 21st century, we have no idea how currencies will be organised. This was one of the issues tabled by the President of the G20. We have a duty to manage our currency.
Traditionally, we had one currency per State. We are experimenting with a currency for a region, a supranational currency. The creation of this economic area of 26 States is good news, Presidents and Heads of State or Government. Hungary has changed its mind, and Denmark is uniting with the euro area even though it was not obliged to do so. This is good news!
The United Kingdom is a major European country. We know why it has not joined the euro area: because of its financial services industry, as you said, Mr President. It is also because, in reality, it does not want the financial transaction tax, on which a political consensus is in the process of being reached.
The second piece of good news concerns financial stability. All of our great democracies, with the exception of Greece, which is a special case – the conclusions say as much – have changed their government, have taken serious measures in relation to financial governance. We are putting plans in place to ensure the financial stability of our continent. This is good news. I do not believe in such a thing as contagion. We have to consolidate the golden rules and reform our Stability and Growth Pact.
There are two issues that have not been resolved. The first is growth. Mr President, I believe the time has come to hold a special European Council in order to examine growth conditions and the terms of a major European investment plan.
The second issue concerns the huge disappointment of democrats. Contrary to what was written in Ms Merkel and President Sarkozy’s letter, there has been no mention whatsoever of a parliamentary dimension. The Heads of State or Governments’ failure to add a parliamentary dimension to economic governance is plain wrong! I suggest you do something about it.
(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))
Georgios Koumoutsakos (PPE), Blue-card question. – (EL) Mr President, my dear colleague, I have listened to all your good and positive words about 9 December, except that you need to accept that, when your house is on fire, you do everything you can to put out the fire. You do not change the fire department regulations. At least, that is what common sense tells us and I fear that the decisions adopted on 9 December were lacking in any such common sense. They looked to the long term and disregarded the immediate action needed. The immediate action needed would be to make better use of the European Central Bank.
You also referred to Greece. I should like to say that, of course, we are building a Europe with converging economies, fiscal rules and taxation. However, I fear that it might be a Europe of unemployment, soup kitchens and despair. That would be a bad thing for all of us. What we need is rapid growth, not just fiscal austerity.
Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE), Blue-card answer. – (FR) Mr President, I share your point of view. I did not understand the question, but I think that we are in agreement, Mr Koumoutsakos. I think that the issue to be dealt with concerns the broad guidelines on growth set by the European Union, in cooperation with the Member States. That is why I would reiterate my proposal: a future European Council should set broad guidelines on growth.
In truth, we know what the two broad guidelines are. The first, as the Commission President mentioned, is a major plan for investing in infrastructure via project bonds. The second is an internal market that can be more than 27 national markets, with flexicurity, and in which we will find the one or two growth points that we need, both to pay off our debts and to finance social progress with the economic prosperity we will create.
Catherine Trautmann (S&D). – (FR) Mr President, Mr Van Rompuy, Mr Barroso, the cheers that accompanied this agreement have already stopped. Is anyone surprised? The package offers no immediate solution to the crisis: no pooling of debt via Eurobonds – even though they have Mr Van Rompuy’s backing – and no strengthening of the European Financial Stability Facility or provision of a banking licence to enable it to raise funds via the ECB, which will not intervene in sovereign debt matters. What happened to using the tax on financial transactions as a fair taxation tool and an own resource? Perhaps there is no longer any urgency.
After all, Mr Sarkozy, having pushed through two austerity plans in order to maintain France’s AAA rating, declared yesterday that a rating downgrade was not such a big obstacle to overcome. Who are they trying to kid? In the longer term, this agreement will be one of sanctions and fear, and it will put a little more pressure on the Member States, which are already struggling. The austerity policies decreed by ‘Merkozy’ are set to plunge Europe back into recession, and Europeans into unemployment. Where is the solidarity? Where are the jobs and growth?
Europe is not a poor Union, but it needs to revitalise its industry, develop its infrastructure and offer its young people prospects for the future. This requires investment, which the Member States and the Union should be helped to finance. This is what justifies revising this Treaty. Any other decision would mean bypassing the national parliaments and the European Parliament and would thus be undemocratic.
How can one explain the fact that a future French presidential candidate consulted neither the opposition parties nor his parliament before pledging his country’s signature? That is something that no one can understand or accept.
Valdemar Tomaševski (ECR). – (PL) Mr President, I would like to express my moderate optimism regarding the outcome of the Council meeting. I am glad that we have taken a step towards a ‘Europe of solidarity’. It is, however, just a small step, because there may be no ‘solidarity’ in a Europe where two big countries are trying to dictate all the decisions, and when richer farmers still receive four times more in subsidies than poorer ones. What is even more important is that a ‘Europe of solidarity’ should have a dimension beyond the materialistic. This means that we must return to our Christian roots and values. The latter will strengthen Europe not only over the next few years, but also for centuries. This is my wish to you all before Christmas.
Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (PPE). – Mr President, I welcome the substance of the agreement reached, a binding commitment to macrofinancial debt brakes and fiscal rigours, and strengthening the firewall and firepower of the ESM. The question is, are those instruments sufficient? This remains an open question. I welcome the wide, inclusive front of – hopefully – 26 Member States. It is not 17 plus, it is 27 minus. We should preserve the unity of the Union and avoid a two-speed Europe at all costs. The dividing line, unfortunately, is between those willing and those unwilling, not between eurozone and non-eurozone. We are all in the same boat. It is a crisis of excessive debt, not a crisis of the euro currency.
I am extremely concerned by the method chosen, i.e. an intergovernmental agreement. The third best option was chosen and the lowest common denominator applied. It has one key deficiency: it is outside the single institutional framework of the EU Treaty and its institutions. It has three deficiencies. It is weaker in terms of enforcement – no EC, no ECJ; it is weaker in terms of democratic scrutiny legitimacy – no European Parliament; and it weakens the Community method as such.
We have to try to remedy the shortcomings of this imperfect compromise. The European Parliament should be invited to be associated with the agreement, because in future it will be part of the acquis. We should provide for the repatriation and transposition of this fiscal union agreement into the EU legal order and Treaties and institutions. The rights of the European Parliament in this new agreement should be guaranteed and safeguarded.
Anni Podimata (S&D). – (EL) Mr President, we are engaging today in another interesting evaluation of the outcome of the last European Council, knowing that our assessment is of little importance, that it counts for little. What counts more, because we have allowed it to count, is the assessment made by the markets and that assessment, as movements on the stock exchanges and bond markets yesterday and today have illustrated, was negative and paradoxically – not to put all the blame on the markets and deny our political responsibilities – it was negative because, as yesterday’s report by one of the three credit rating agencies tellingly put it, the decisions adopted by the European Council do not respond to or deal with the immediate risk of economic slowdown and the problems in the banking system.
Therefore, we are debating and planning the future of the euro area, but are still unable to manage the present and that is due in large measure to the fact that every Community decision-making procedure has been circumvented. It is due to the fact that two countries are taking decisions for 27 or for 17 countries and are flagrantly ignoring the European institutions.
José Manuel García-Margallo y Marfil (PPE). – (ES) Mr President, I would firstly like to say that the intergovernmental treaty was the only possible solution in an emergency situation. However, this treaty means a redistribution of sovereignty, a new social compact, and requires greater involvement on the part of the Commission and Parliament in order to give it legitimacy.
What was the aim of these agreements? Two things, as President Van Rompuy has said. Firstly, to convince the markets that we want to continue together, that this is not a pegged exchange rate system that can be reversed at any time, and secondly, to stabilise the markets.
I agree that, over the medium term, fiscal union was absolutely essential, because this crisis has been caused in part by government excess. However, it is not just the excesses of governments that have caused the crisis. Ireland and Spain had sound public finances and yet they are also in difficulties, because they were not competitive enough, because there was too much private indebtedness. This is why I place enormous importance on correcting macro-economic imbalances, which has gone somewhat unnoticed, and enormous importance on the issue of growth, which has gone unnoticed too.
The uncertainty is greater with regard to stabilising the markets. I agree that we have corrected the private participation mistake: it was an error and we have put it right now. We have made a little progress on rescue mechanisms, but I am not sure that the provision made will be sufficient and that we will have the financing resources to make them effective. There are questions about leveraging the temporary mechanism and doubts about the permanent mechanism.
Mr Barroso, I ask you to continue with the basket of bonds that, in my opinion, would be a good way of financing this fund. It would overcome the fragmentation in the debt market and make sovereign debt a risk-free asset once again.
The European Central Bank will only act if it believes the summit will bring security, and we will see in the coming days whether it does or not. However, if it does not, it will have to seek alternative options, because we cannot go into battle against the crisis with one arm tied behind our backs.
If the Member States have to insure against possible losses, then let them do so, but let us find a way of stabilising the markets that, may I say, are not doing well at all right now.
Edit Herczog (S&D). – (HU) ‘Mr President, ladies and gentlemen: not enough!’ We envision progress within the framework of the European Union and with the involvement of the parliaments. We ask for a solution that can kick-start the economy. One that responds to the pressing issues of society. One that does not put millions, especially young people, in a hopeless situation. One that does not lead these people to join radical political movements. Presidents, as a Hungarian, I must ask: what happened between Thursday night and Friday morning? Did the Hungarian Prime Minister lay down arms and capitulate? Or did he in a mere four hours make the road to Damascus and turn from Saul into Paul? Or was it you who were in error at your press conference in the morning where you classified Hungary and the United Kingdom in the same group? We Hungarians have the right to know what happened between Thursday night and Friday morning.
Theodor Dumitru Stolojan (PPE) . – (RO) Mr President, I would like to begin by thanking both presidents, Mr Van Rompuy and Mr Barroso, for their efforts and the results which were achieved at this European Council meeting. It was exactly what was expected. Some people are certainly not happy. However, what matters now, in order to regain credibility with respect to the markets, is for the results of this European Council to be implemented as quickly as possible, without hesitation. This is also, I would stress, so that we can begin to see tangible results in implementing the adjustment programmes of the two countries, Greece and Italy. Achieving progress in implementing these programmes will greatly enhance the European Union’s credibility in the eyes of the financial markets.
It is obviously Europe’s citizens who will continue to make sacrifices because tighter budgetary discipline will also entail measures for reducing budget deficits in European Union Member States.
I would like to highlight again that, while ordinary citizens are making sacrifices, there are companies operating in the European Union which are, however, domiciled in tax havens and continue not to pay taxes in European Union Member States. I call on the Council and European Commission not to drop this matter. We need to reach the situation where companies registered in Member States, which are unwilling to be transparent and are registered with profits in tax havens, should no longer be able to carry out transactions in any of the Member States.
Edite Estrela (S&D). – (PT) Mr President, the European Council was a waste of time. The Union emerged divided, the President of the Commission and the President of the Council were disrespected, and the European Parliament was ignored. There is not one word on the role of the European Parliament or of the national parliaments in the Council’s conclusions. I would ask my fellow Members, will we not react? I understand the poorly disguised dissatisfaction of Dr Barroso and Mr Van Rompuy, and I should like to express my solidarity with them. I should also like to know what they think of this new Treaty, which contradicts previous ones and will be drafted without the involvement of the parliaments.
The main objectives of the summit were to save the euro and calm the markets. In order to save the euro, the Council is proposing a Treaty that is intergovernmental in nature, is a legal absurdity and is an attack on democracy. In order to calm the markets, it is proposing more austerity and penalties, which has the opposite effect. Without a strategy for economic growth, it is impossible to calm the markets. Are Ms Merkel and Mr Sarkozy unable to grasp the obvious? Austerity measures will lead to economic recession, to reduced consumption and exports, and to increased bankruptcies and unemployment. It is a vicious circle that, if it is not broken quickly, will kill off the euro and destroy the European Union. Will the public allow the dream of Monnet and Schuman to turn into a nightmare?
Paulo Rangel (PPE). – (PT) Mr President, President Van Rompuy, President Barroso, first of all, I should like to say that I have always viewed this juncture in the Union as one at which we would probably need an intergovernmental approach. That is not because I do not believe in the Community method, but because the Treaty of Lisbon was not, in my view, a sufficient basis for the reforms that needed to be made, so there was a chance that we would need to go through this, just as the European Union has on many occasions. I do not believe that this is anything out of the ordinary. I do believe, however, that there is a need, now, starting from the point at which we have reached an agreement on the so-called budgetary union or fiscal union, to transfer part of the powers resulting from it to the EU institutions; to the Commission, in particular, and to Parliament, which must find its own role here, in conjunction, indeed, with the Council and the Commission. I believe this is crucial if we are to have a constructive approach.
There are then other aspects not directly related to the activity of the various actors, particularly those linked to the European Central Bank (ECB) and its ability to intervene. The ECB is independent, but it should currently be using its independence to strengthen and add credibility to the steps that have just been taken, some of them perhaps reluctantly. In some ways, this is induced by the very conclusions of the Council, because the ECB is now associated with the European Stability Mechanism and the European Financial Stability Facility. That sends a very important message that there is a strategy that is, shall we say, concerted, or at least that they in fact seem to be working together and to have some capacity.
It is, therefore, now also a case of working on the legal issues, so that we here in Parliament can use our political strength to democratise the conclusions of this Council in some way too. I am not optimistic, but I am confident despite everything, and I believe steps have been taken that could be the start of the solution.
(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))
Liisa Jaakonsaari (S&D), Blue-card question. – (FI) Mr President, Mr Rangel was happy with the preparations for this meeting, which I was not, because they did not take place within the framework of the structures in place.
I believe that Mr Rangel was happy because the preparations were made for the meeting at the rather impressive Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) meeting in Marseille. The rest of us, however, only know the conclusions. For example, I have heard that working life issues were discussed at the European Council meeting. Nobody among the rest of us knows whether these were discussed or not, however, and they are very fundamental questions. Mr Rangel, do you know what else was discussed at the summit apart from what is in the conclusions?
Paulo Rangel (PPE), Blue-card answer. – (PT) Mr President, thank you for your question, but I sincerely do not know what information you have about the Congress of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) in Marseille that could lead you to say that. In fact, it is my view that a series of declarations were made at the congress in Marseille that played a very important part in the constructive suggestions that were subsequently made in the Council’s declarations.
I must admit that I am not satisfied with the Council’s resolutions, because I am a federalist and I should like to see far more being done. However, there is one thing I would like to say: it is by no means insignificant that 26 of the 27 Member States have reached an agreement in this area, even if some of them will consult their parliaments. This is by no means insignificant. On the contrary, it sends out a very important message. I can tell you now that I am confident that the United Kingdom, that those who have jumped ship, will end up back on board; I am confident of that because the pressure for everyone to unite is far greater, given the very fact that we already have 26 on board.
Jörg Leichtfried (S&D). – (DE) Mr President, Mr Barroso, I have listened very carefully to your description of what happened and what has yet to happen. However, your explanation did not give me the feeling that this summit has really been a great success or a major breakthrough. It may be that we have the debt problem under control. I say ‘may’ advisedly. However, what is happening about the measures for recovery that you yourself have mentioned? What about the proposals to create new jobs? What is happening with regard to the role of the European Central Bank (ECB)? What about Eurobonds? We have heard nothing about any of these things at this summit. Most importantly, what are we doing to respond to the economic war being waged by some rating agencies against the European Union? As far as I can see, this has not been discussed either. However, we do need to talk about it. The big disappointment for me, and I would like to be quite open about this, is that I do not see why those organisations which have always profited from this situation, such as the big banks and the private banks, should now be totally absolved from any participation and why the taxpayers will once again have to pay. This was the wrong decision.
Mr Van Rompuy, Mr Barroso, I believe that the European Union is ultimately too good a thing to be left in the hands of the Heads of State or Government. The European Parliament must once again become heavily involved in the decision-making process, in the same way as the Commission. I am expecting an answer from you today about when and how that will happen, on behalf of all the citizens of Europe and, in particular, those people who are working hard for Europe.
Marietta Giannakou (PPE). – (EL) Mr President, I must point out that, in the stand which they took and the efforts which they made at the Council, both President Barroso and President Van Rompuy made a real effort to achieve specific results and I wish to thank them for that. Many years ago, in 1985, this Chamber debated a report by Professor Cecchini ordered by the Commission entitled ‘The cost of non-Europe’. We were all convinced at the time that, if we were to have real European Union, we needed a common currency. However, monetary union had design faults. The European Council now appears to be discussing what the cost of Europe, rather than the cost of non-Europe, would be.
How can we debate a change to the Treaty in the sense of a transnational, Schengen-type agreement in this day and age? I am sure that you will tell me a great deal of time is needed for a European convention, for everything that needs to be done, and for the national parliaments to participate. Regardless of whether or not time is needed, democratic legitimisation is needed and democratic legitimisation of decisions taken in a fragmentary manner – because I do not think that we are done with the Council of 8 and 9 December – is impossible unless the European Parliament at least has a role which, institutionally, more than covers the role of the national parliaments, which ultimately is non-existent.
(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(3))
Anni Podimata (S&D), Blue-card question. – (EL) Mr President, Ms Giannakou, I should like to hear your opinion on a matter which you, too, must surely have considered and I should like to hear the President of the Commission’s opinion on the same matter. We are enacting measures and the European Council has decided that those who infringe fiscal austerity should be subject to stricter sanctions. However, apart from fiscal infringements, there are the political decisions which sometimes have disastrous consequences, such as the Deauville decision which we recently withdrew.
My question is this: are we tightening up sanctions for fiscal offenders? How can we prevent decisions from being taken that might have disastrous consequences on the development of the crisis?
Marietta Giannakou (PPE), Blue-card answer. – (EL) Mr President, this is a matter that I, too, touched on in my speech: the fact that, if our political decisions, fiscal austerity and the rules to be applied across the board are not in keeping with each other and our political decisions ultimately have a massive impact on certain countries, that is a fundamental problem for Europe, not just for the countries subject to that specific impact. That is why I also raised the question of the democratic legitimisation of those decisions and I said that, if the national parliaments are not involved – because they are not involved – the European Parliament should at least have a more fundamental role and, of course, the European Commission is still the Guardian of the Treaties.
Roberto Gualtieri (S&D). – (IT) Mr President, Mr Van Rompuy, Mr Barroso, the European Union is a Community based on law, and therefore form cannot be separated from substance: form is substance!
That means that using an intergovernmental treaty as the basis for a fiscal compact is legally and technically quite a complex operation, or indeed an impossible one in practice. The comparison with Schengen and Prüm is not valid, because those areas were not governed by the Treaties.
The fact is that we have reached this point because the premise was wrong; in other words, the Treaties could and should have been overhauled. We now have to find a way out, avoid the risk of renationalising Union competences, preserve the EU’s legal system, avoid duplications and, of course, correct an economic policy that is both wrong and inadequate.
This House will watch carefully, ready to play its part in sorting out this incredible mess, by putting the process started at the European Council back on the rails of EU law, which are the only possible foundations on which a true fiscal union can be built.
Marianne Thyssen (PPE). – (NL) Mr President, I would first like to address the President of the European Council in order to congratulate him. To congratulate him, both on the proposals he prepared for the summit and on the results he has achieved, despite the fact that some Heads of State or Government have short-circuited.
As far as immediate action is concerned, we have definitely made progress and I believe that we now have the prospect of a firm firewall and sufficient solidarity. As far as the necessary budgetary discipline and integration are concerned, we have now really reached the necessary depth, both in terms of rules and in terms of monitoring and enforcement, and, in this respect, we may say that 2011 has really brought a genuine Copernican revolution.
Having said that, Mr Van Rompuy, Mr Barroso, I am extremely worried about the new budget treaty. Worried about both the method and the form it will take. In what way will that treaty come about? Which institutions will contribute staff to it? What about democracy, the Community method? Which master tinkerer will still be able to marry harmoniously decisions taken within the Treaty of Lisbon, on the one hand, and those outside it, on the other?
I have one final question, which I address to the President of the Commission: should we now stop focusing on the economic pillar, on the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy and on the concern for economic growth, competitiveness and job creation? Because we have criteria in our Stability and Growth Pact which, nonetheless, have not just a nominator, but a denominator, too.
Mairead McGuinness (PPE). – Mr President, I often wonder whether anyone in this House listens to what other speakers are saying. We come in and we speak and we leave.
I listened carefully to Mr Van Rompuy. Perhaps his quiet way does not appeal to the media, but he speaks with great sense and great calmness. He said that we are on a long road to recovery. We need to change the narrative. There will be no instant or one-meeting solution to this crisis. Let us not ignore the progress that was made on Thursday and Friday, even though we are disappointed with aspects of it. Let us salute that little bit of progress and look for more towards March.
Let me say that there is one issue that I am really concerned about. It is the sense in which the Franco-German axis is the European Union. I fear that this is bad for France and for Germany. We need to rebuild the solidarity of 27 Member States of equal status within the European Union. I think that will help us restore Europe and save the euro.
Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D). – (ES) Mr President, nothing has been enough. Over the past three years, we have witnessed a succession of Councils, each of which has been at the mercy of the grade that the financial markets would decide to give its decisions on the following Monday. It turns out that the markets are still giving the European Council’s decisions a failing grade, because not one of the results so far appears to have pleased them. Nothing has been enough, and our efforts are still failing.
The reason for this is simple. It is because we are still focusing on a strategy that is partial, insufficient and biased. It is partial because, although it does impact on austerity, it ignores growth and the need for investment to generate employment, the role that the European Central Bank must take and the subsequent issuance of Eurobonds. It is insufficient because what is called fiscal union is, in fact, only a budgetary union, budgetary coordination, and ignores the aspect of inflows and the correction of the tax and fiscal inequalities in the European Union. Above all, it is biased, because it is an intergovernmental agreement that sits badly with the provisions for treaty amendment enshrined in the Treaty of Lisbon itself, which made the European Parliament, which represents 500 million citizens, the most powerful parliament in the history of the European Union, and with good reason, because it represents 500 million people.
This is a Parliament with an ordinary legislative procedure that should play a decisive role in any plans to reform the Treaties.
Graham Watson (ALDE). – Mr President, British Liberal Democrats deeply regret the outcome of last week’s summit. It is bad for Britain, it is divisive for Europe and it is unsettling for others. The European Union needs to deepen cooperation. The United Kingdom need not fear this. If it does so, it is because a flawed voting system, a party with a shrunken mind and the mass media power of an Australian-American have brought the moment to its crisis.
To restore monetary stability and to return to prosperity, we need more discipline in Member States and more unity at Union level. We must anchor the new treaty in the structures and methods of the EU. And there is a message for Europe’s right-wing parties who largely preside over this mess. We must invest too in future prosperity, lest retrenchment lock us into recession. Great Britain must come back to the table. It may be a rock surrounded by water, but it is not an island.
Philippe Lamberts (Verts/ALE). – (FR) Mr President, Mr Barroso, Mr Van Rompuy – I see that he is no longer here – with Greece, we had a clear case of budgetary misconduct. However, if I look at Portugal, Spain or Ireland, I do not see a lack of budgetary discipline as being the cause of the problem. If I look at Italy, it has a very high level of debt, but its budget deficit is lower than Germany’s was when it destroyed the Stability and Growth Pact.
What I am trying to say is that the problems we are facing are far from being confined to budgetary discipline. Yet what are we hearing from the Council and the Commission? That the problem is one of budgetary discipline and that the only solutions are budgetary discipline solutions – by applying them, we will solve the problem outright.
I can only deduce from this that the agenda that is being presented to us is an ideologically motivated one and that it has less and less to do with the reality that we are facing.
Peter van Dalen (ECR). – (NL) Mr President, the agreement we have reached is, in itself, quite a reasonable one. Sanctions against fiscal sinners will be as automatic as possible. However, there will be a lot of collateral damage. The Netherlands will lose the right to veto payments from the new European Stability Mechanism.
A motion by my party members on this matter in the Hague was supported by only a few groups, which is utterly incomprehensible. We have pitched battles being fought over every euro that needs to be saved in the Netherlands, but people apparently have no problem with billions being squandered on an amputated budget in Europe. The Netherlands will also lose an important ally, now that the United Kingdom is pulling out.
Give it a little while and the Dutch Prime Minister Rutte will be nothing more than an attendant in the power marriage between Ms Merkel and Mr Sarkozy. Mr Sarkozy’s position has, unfortunately, been strengthened, because he has got rid of the Brits and their Atlantic allegiance. There is reason to fear that the necessary restructuring and budget cuts will fail to manifest and that the ECB will sort out even more junk bonds. I would also suggest you give a glass of water to our fellow Member over there, because he might be about to choke.
Angelika Werthmann (NI). – (DE) Mr President, Mr Van Rompuy, Mr Barroso, ladies and gentlemen, the Council summit which has just ended has been supported by some people and criticised by others. I welcome the progress that has been made. Steps have been taken in the right direction.
As far as the debt brake is concerned, structural deficits of only 0.5% of GDP are now permitted. In the area of automatic sanctions, the European Commission is now allowed to intervene immediately where countries have deficits that are too high and to provide monitoring and guidance. In addition, it is now supervising budget planning in the Member States much more closely than was the case before. It is regrettable that only 26 Member States have signed up for this pact and this also represents a potential risk for the future of Europe. However, we have quite obviously learnt from the failure to comply with the criteria of the Maastricht Treaty. We have also learnt from our most recent mistakes.
Now it is time to ensure that these results are implemented as quickly as possible.
Roberta Angelilli (PPE). – (IT) Mr President, a 26-State agreement is a clear sign of unity and courage to tackle the crisis of confidence in the euro. Discipline and rigour will, of course, be necessary, but so will solidarity and social responsibility to reassure the people and businesses of Europe.
President Barroso was therefore right to emphasise these ideas and launch the stability bonds, because we cannot afford not to invest as well – or primarily – in growth and development, as these are vital ingredients for a concrete response to the economic crisis and unemployment.
Therefore, a joint project with no leaders is a good thing. My only regret is about the United Kingdom, which has confirmed Charles De Gaulle’s remark that the UK only wanted to join the European Union to slow down or boycott the joint European project. It is a pity that its ‘No’ was not really uttered on behalf of the UK’s citizens, but rather on behalf of the financial interests of the City.
Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D). – (SK) Mr President, I do not get the sense that the summit has had positive outcomes for citizens of Member States of the European Union.
As the representative of one of the smaller Member States, I particularly resent the way in which France and Germany met before the actual summit, and de facto announced the decisions they had taken to the other Member States so that we could rubber-stamp them. I also find it unfortunate that the measures that were adopted are more restrictive; they impose restrictions on national budgets, but what I do not see is the growth-related or socially-oriented aspects of these measures. However, I would be very pleased if those decisions that were taken could become effective in the short term, if the fundamental changes facing us in the European Union were decided by a convention, and if far greater opportunities were provided for involving other European institutions in implementing cooperation. At the moment, I specifically mean the European Parliament, because this is where the elected representatives and the European Commission sit.
Charles Goerens (ALDE). – (FR) Mr President, one is entitled to be disappointed by Mr Cameron’s attitude at the last European Council, as indeed I am.
This should not, however, disguise the fact that many UK citizens disagree with their prime minister. I refer in particular to our Liberal and Labour colleagues. However, I have to say that the general tone of this morning’s debate has not helped to bring us closer to the UK’s pro-European political movements. That is not very wise.
That is not my only concern, however. The way in which the governments of two Member States of the European Union are trying to impose their will on the others is perhaps not the best way of strengthening cohesion within the EU in the long term and thus of respecting the authority of the President of the European Council. It seems more and more as though there are only two Member States that matter in the European Union these days. Is it always going to be this way?
This is why I would like to ask Mr Van Rompuy whether he intends, here and now, to rule out any initiative that is likely to bring the United Kingdom back into the European fold by 30 March 2012.
Othmar Karas (PPE). – (DE) Mr President, the messages we have heard today are clear. The European Union is not divided, but the United Kingdom is failing to show solidarity. I am pleased that a debate about the path to be taken by the United Kingdom in Europe is now starting in the United Kingdom itself.
Secondly, we must not allow ourselves to be blackmailed. That was the clear message from the 26 Member States. The mistakes of the past are catching up with us and we must resolve them. It is clear that incurring debt to service debt means selling our future down the river. When we get into debt, we are damaging growth, employment and our future prospects. What are we calling for? No parallel structures, but a more in-depth approach, a decision not to play off the confidence of the citizens against the confidence of the markets and a convention which will change the Treaty of Lisbon and the bilateral Treaties with the involvement of the European Union. In addition, the 26 Member States must behave in accordance with the Community method.
Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (S&D). – (HU) Mr President, I would like to bring to the attention of Mr Van Rompuy and Mr Barroso, and everyone else, that a malicious, and even self-destructive and nationalistic debate has emerged in Hungary. As if the treaty on the monetary union would substantially restrict our national sovereignty. This is a dangerous development because it might spread to other countries as well. There is no doubt that this agreement restricts the leeway of national politicians, but in doing so, it also limits the possibility of irresponsible and erroneous decisions. Is there anything that is more in the interest of citizens? Beyond the over-long control of the democratic elections held every four years, this monetary union demands budgetary and economic policy discipline from all present and future governments. The Orbán Government should not play the part of reluctant EU Member State. Hungarian national interests clearly require us to join the monetary union as soon as possible.
Íñigo Méndez de Vigo (PPE). – (ES) Mr President, I believe that the thing we politicians must be able to tackle is unforeseen circumstances. I believe the European Council tackled the unforeseen, and I think it did well – and I say this standing alongside my friend Mr Atkins – in not giving in to Mr Cameron’s blackmail. I also believe it did well in seeking an alternative solution, the intergovernmental treaty.
Sometimes, God moves in mysterious ways. We have an intergovernmental treaty that will be easier to approve than the reform of Article 48, and which will come into force sooner. The crux of the matter – and I am addressing the President of the European Council, my friend Herman Van Rompuy – is to do it quickly and for Parliament to be involved in the exercise. This seems fundamental because, returning to the metaphor of the lunch used previously by Mr Verhofstadt, I believe that if the European Council makes this lunch without Parliament, there will be no dessert.
Ana Gomes (S&D). – (PT) Mr President, one of the European solidarity measures urgently needed to curb speculation against the euro was taken at this summit, which gambled on careering blindly into a new Treaty using anti-democratic means that this Parliament will not accept. The proposal to increase IMF funding is the most shameful admission yet of the impotence of the ‘Merkozy’ Europe.
In my country, older people who used to be middle-class are swelling the queues at the soup kitchens, thousands of children are turning up to school with empty bellies, thousands of families are losing the homes in which they have invested their life savings, and young people in their thousands are leaving for Angola, Brazil, Australia and Germany because of the lack of work, owing to companies going bust and making more people redundant every day.
By contrast, the rich are getting richer, and can therefore continue putting their money into tax havens such as the City of London, with the help of our banks, supported by the loan from the Troika, for which the Portuguese taxpayer will pay through the nose. Through the obsession with the recessive austerity of the ‘Merkozy tandem’, the European Council is simply impeding growth and employment in Europe, and destroying social Europe and the European Union itself; it is laying waste to pro-European sentiment amongst the European public and sowing the seeds of social chaos.
José Manuel Barroso, President of the Commission. – Mr President, many important issues were raised during this debate.
First of all, on the issue of substance and form, I agree that in a Community that is based on the rule of law, form is important. That is why we in the Commission did everything we could to get an agreement that could be considered compatible with the Community method, an agreement that could be signed by all the Member States. I have to say that this was not only the position of the Commission, but of the President of the European Council. He presented that as the clear preference. It was also the opinion of most of our Member States.
Today, I presented to you in a very open way – because I think this is my duty in terms of democratic accountability to this Parliament – why I think this was not possible. The alternative now is either to avoid stronger commitments of the European Union, namely, of those Member States that are ready to go further, or try to formulate this agreement in a way that is fully compatible with European Union law.
This issue raises important legal and institutional matters. I have been frank in making some of these points to you. I think it is possible to do it, but it requires efforts on all sides. This is what the Commission is determined to do while always trying to be constructive. I think it is possible to come to an agreement that is fully compatible with European law and that addresses some of the concerns in terms of discipline and convergence in the euro area and indeed beyond the euro area. I can say to you what I also said in the European Council and in the formal summit; namely, that I think this Parliament should be associated with the present efforts for finding that solution. I am ready to work with you to that end.
An issue that came up very often in the debate today was the position of the United Kingdom. It is important to put the UK relationship with the rest of the European Union in its proper context. Emotions are what they are but I think, as some of you have mentioned, that it is important to see how we can get out of a situation that was indeed unfortunate. I welcome the statement made yesterday by Prime Minister Cameron that he intends to continue to pursue a positive policy of engagement in the European Union on a whole range of issues, including growth and economic reform, smart regulation, fighting climate change and the development agenda.
I sincerely believe that we have a joint interest to agree, and to agree among all of us. I think that it is in all of our interests to have a United Kingdom Government that fully engages with the other Member States and the European institutions. Indeed, it is the European institutions that are the best guarantee that the interests of all Member States, including the UK, will be fully respected. It is precisely through European institutions and in full respect of the Community method that we can avoid any kind of split, any kind of directorium, or any kind of derivation that will be negative for the overall interests of the Union and each one of its Member States. I therefore hope that we can work constructively with the UK Government to make sure that the fiscal compact now agreed dovetails neatly with the European Union Treaties so that the interests of all Member States and European institutions, including this Parliament, are respected.
Regarding the evaluation of the results, I was extremely prudent on purpose. I tried to avoid adjectives as much as I could. The reality is that by now, we have all learned that the solution to this crisis – as I have mentioned very often – is not a sprint, it is a marathon. When I use the expression ‘marathon’, I am not just thinking about the Greek situation.
One can lose confidence in one day, but to recover confidence takes much longer. So what we need now in the euro area, and in the European Union, is a commitment to sustainability, to persistence, to rigour, to discipline and to convergence over time. There will be no panacea. There is no silver bullet. In these matters, there are no miracles. I think it is also important that we show everybody, including our partners, that we are committed to a solution and that we will work consistently, coherently and over time to reach that solution.
As some of you said – and, in fact, I also made the point in my introductory remarks – the issue of budget discipline and addressing the problems of debt is an important one, but it is not the whole problem. We have in Europe, and in the euro area, a problem of sovereign debt. This sovereign debt is partly the cause of the crisis, but it is partly also the result of the crisis. The crisis started with the subprime problems when, in fact, there was a problem in terms of the evaluation of risk by markets and investors.
We have both a sovereign debt crisis and a financial crisis at the same time, but at the origin of these different crises, we have a problem in Europe of competitiveness. We are losing our position to many of our competitors in the world. That is why we need the reforms to enhance our competitiveness and to liberate the potential for growth. That is why, in fact, what we have discussed in this summit is only part of the solution because it addresses only part of the problem.
We need fiscal discipline. We need, of course, to be rigorous in terms of having a debt sustainability path, but we also need measures for growth. I made this point very clearly. We need growth in Europe. That is why I think we now have an agenda. We have the EU 2020 agenda and we have other initiatives to address this major problem of growth. Without creating confidence globally that Europe is able to restore growth, I believe we cannot get out of this current crisis. This is our position. This is the position that the Commission has sustained over time and we are ready to work with you and, of course, with all the institutions in that direction, as I said earlier, to build a Europe of stability but also a Europe of growth, a Europe of responsibility but also a Europe of solidarity.
This is our commitment and we will go on working for this, hopefully with all the Member States and in full respect of the principles that made our Union what it is today, after all a Union of free, democratic societies committed to the very strong values of the rule of law, justice, freedom and solidarity.
IN THE CHAIR: JERZY BUZEK President
Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council. – (FR) Mr President, firstly, with regard to the overall assessment of the results of this European Council, I believe that we need to be consistent in our analysis. We cannot say, on the one hand, that the financial markets are jointly responsible for the current crisis and the difficulties we have to overcome and, on the other, that we are waiting for them to react before we assess the political decisions that were taken during European summits.
Honourable Members, as the Commission President just said, unfortunately, there is no magic solution – there really is not. The confidence that has been lost can only be restored bit by bit. The crisis of confidence has been too severe for it to change overnight. We still do not have all the facts, and I am not going to say any more on the matter. However, the fact that some Member States have failed to implement the plans that were requested of them creates mistrust. The fact that some Member States have waited far too long to act – we saw this again in the summer – creates a crisis of confidence that cannot be resolved at EU level. Therefore, the Member States have a huge responsibility.
There are also crises of confidence that are completely unnecessary. On 21 July, we decided to make our rescue instrument, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), more flexible and more effective. The markets thought that we would never be able to get the parliaments of the 17 Member States of the euro area to approve the measures taken and decided on. We succeeded, however.
(The President called for silence in the Chamber)
Thus, in the summer – on 21 July – we took some decisions with the aim of making our temporary rescue fund system more effective. We succeeded in gaining the 17 national parliaments’ support for all that in less than three months; in around two and a half months, in fact. The markets had very serious doubts about whether we would succeed. We did succeed, but in the meantime, mistrust was created and it has never gone away. Consequently, there is no magic solution. There are many aspects that we are not in control of, which explains our current situation.
The third topic of discussion: many of you have emphasised the combination of responsibility and solidarity, and rightly so, because that is the very perspective from which the first European Council that I chaired was held. It is important, in this case, for Greece to shoulder its responsibilities and for us to be ready to show solidarity.
Honourable Members, we have been extremely supportive of each other and we want to be even more so. We have decided to grant EUR 110 billion in bilateral loans to Greece alone. We have created a temporary bailout fund with a EUR 500 billion guarantee. We have taken the decision and we will lay down the definitive rules on the permanent fund, which will be worth at least EUR 500 billion. We have even said that, this time, we will assess in March whether the EUR 500 billion ceiling is sufficient.
Point four: we have just decided to raise approximately EUR 200 billion in bilateral loans, to be channelled through the International Monetary Fund. If you add together all these hundreds of billions of euro, then yes, we are unified. Some might say that we are even too unified.
The Central Bank is not a solidarity tool. The Central Bank is a stability tool: it stabilises inflation and the euro area. Moreover, the Central Bank has recently taken some extremely important decisions, and it will do so again next week. The importance of its decisions will become clear later on. It has decided to make funds available to the banks, even over three-year terms. This is an unprecedented measure, but it has taken it to create stability.
Some of you rightly talked about the intergovernmental treaty and asked questions on the issue. As the Commission President said earlier …
(The President again called for silence)
As the Commission President said earlier, an intergovernmental treaty was not our first choice. Our first choice was to revise the Treaty in different ways: Protocol 12, other protocols, the ordinary method for amending the Treaties, the simplified method for amending them, secondary legislation. We had a whole range of legal instruments for achieving our objective. We lacked unanimity. There is nothing I can do about that, and I am not going to stir up controversy on this issue in public. That would prevent us from returning to the negotiating table at a later date in order to agree on a proper Treaty change, one that includes the acquis of the intergovernmental treaty. One day, we will come together again as 27, so that everyone agrees on those issues on which a consensus could not be reached a few days ago.
Everything we do will be in accordance with the Treaty. Of course, the intergovernmental treaty must respect the Treaty or Treaties of the Economic Union. We will respect the acquis of the single market. Of course we will! There will be no discrimination; no discrimination will be applied. The Commission will see to that, as indeed it should, by virtue of its role. If possible, the Court of Justice will be included. This is permitted under Article 273.
I shall respond to Mr Schulz with regard to the role of the European Parliament. I was very brief when I spoke on this issue – and on other issues besides. I said that we would, of course, involve the European Parliament in our work, in the process of drafting this intergovernmental treaty, as we have done in the past and as we will do again now, in keeping with previous intergovernmental conferences. More specifically, with regard to the working group that will be carrying out the preparatory work, several Members of the European Parliament will, of course, be involved in it, as will other members of the Euro Working Group and those who are contributing to the joint effort to obtain a sound intergovernmental treaty. I shall say it again: this is not our first choice, it is our second choice, but since this is how it is, we will do everything possible to ensure that it marks a step forward.
Economic policy is a matter of common interest. We made this point in the conclusions of our summit. There are ‘six-pack’ mechanisms – and some of you have mentioned them – that will be extremely important in economic coordination terms. Macro-economic surveillance is a major innovation in our political infrastructure. As regards the Euro Plus Pact, had we been able to work more quickly on Thursday and Friday, we would have had a statement by the Commission President on the state of play, on the implementation of the Euro Plus Pact. The documents are ready. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to hold a very detailed discussion on the issue, but all the information is there.
The major economic reforms are in addition to everything that was decided in the ‘six-pack’, in the Euro Plus Pact. We will discuss them at European summits, at the European Council, to ensure that some countries do not practise a policy of increasing revenue or raising the retirement age while the others lag behind. We need a uniform approach on different levels and we need those at the highest level to be aware of it, too.
We can make a huge amount of progress on different levels. Once again, will this be the magic solution? No. However, I would say this: at some point over the next few years, when this crisis is behind us – because, unlike some of you, I am essentially an optimist – it will become clear what was achieved in 2010 and 2011. Much further down the line, people will say that it was during those decisive years, those difficult years, that the foundations were laid to prevent a repeat of this crisis. We have changed the Union substantially. Moreover, what is now an annus horribilis will one day be considered an annus mirabilis.
President. – President Van Rompuy, thank you for your concluding remarks. I would like to thank both Presidents for attending our very deep and comprehensive discussion.
Nicole Sinclaire (NI). – Mr President, I rise under Rule 173. I wonder, do you share my concern at the level of xenophobia that was experienced in this Chamber this morning towards Britain? It is an absolute disgrace. A chair of a group, Mr Verhofstadt, and I quote, said, ‘when you are invited to dinner, you are either invited as a guest or as a main course’. Could he explain whether that was a threat and what did he mean exactly by that comment?
President. – We have just had a very interesting discussion. I think that all the comments made were within the framework of a democratic open exchange of views. I would like to strongly emphasise this. We had differences of opinion, sometimes we spoke hard words, but all of this remained within the standards of a democratic debate, which I would never want to restrict and did not restrict. I thank you very much, and now let us proceed to the vote.
Written statements (Rule 149)
Bastiaan Belder (EFD), in writing. – (NL) Last Friday, the European Council decided to enshrine the concept of fiscal discipline in a new treaty. This is a step in the right direction. The new treaty needs to ensure that the rules agreed at the time of the introduction of the euro are actually enforced. It is also important that the Emergency Fund is used effectively. The question is whether the EUR 500 billion from the temporary and permanent emergency funds, supplemented with EUR 200 billion through the IMF, will prove sufficient.
The European Banking Authority has calculated a capital requirement of EUR 114.7 billion, based on the exposure of European banks to government bonds. However, the total capital requirement is higher, because banks have outstanding loans in the private sector, not all of which are of a high quality. One real solution to the euro crisis which I advocate is as follows: the weak euro countries must gain economic competitiveness through reform and cuts.
Finally, unsustainably high debt levels in the private sector, particularly those accrued by banks, should be reduced in a controlled fashion.
Ivo Belet (PPE), in writing. – (NL) I read this morning in the German press that several British towns have terminated their twinning partnerships with their French and German sister communities in recent weeks. This appears to be a direct outgrowth of the eurosceptic attitude of the Cameron government. It shows what the British Government’s current European course is giving rise to. This is absolutely shameful.
We do not expect our British friends to deliberately infect their local governments with a European anti-virus. Exchange between citizens and associations from all corners of Europe is one of the most concrete tools for shaping European citizenship on the ground. We are counting on British local councils to continue to respond loyally and enthusiastically to twinning projects. It is ironic timing that, tomorrow, of all days, the Commission is to propose the new multiannual programme ‘Europe for Citizens’.
Ioan Enciu (S&D), in writing. – (RO) A number of decisions were made last week in Brussels which are vital and necessary for the European Union’s future. In keeping with the spirit of democracy, these decisions must now be explained and be the subject of broad debate in every Member State.
Unfortunately, however, the current Romanian Government lost the meaning of democracy and normality a long time ago. The State President’s authoritarian approach has become so evident that the decisions at the Brussels Summit were made by him personally, on behalf of the Romanian State, without consulting anyone and without any kind of debate either before or after the summit. In addition to this, the intention now is to use the decisions made by the European Council to change the constitution quickly to suit his own electoral interests.
I want to take this opportunity to call on the current Romanian Government to cease any deviation from the principles of democracy and to establish a real dialogue with the opposition as soon as possible on the democratic implementation of the new rules agreed at EU level. New provisions cannot be introduced to the constitution before parliament’s legitimacy has been restored by organising early elections.
Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (PT) You only have to look at the facts themselves to overcome any doubt that this summit was yet another missed opportunity for finding the answers and making the required decisions with respect to the crisis of capitalism, which is deepening and spreading.
The last European Council’s decisions show that, after almost three years of crisis, the summits that take place are failing to provide a clear response and the necessary break or change in policy needed to increase employment and reduce social inequalities and poverty. On the contrary, what they are proposing will exacerbate the entire situation because they are going to attempt to impose more austerity on the workers and the peoples by means of an outright coup, thereby weakening democracy and withdrawing the principle of sovereignty in budgetary policy from the Member States with more fragile economies, while tax havens continue to flourish.
Large companies and financial institutions continue to gain from this proposal of increasing the concentration and centralisation of economic and political power, dominated by the European powers, under the tutelage of Germany. That is why the public will continue to protest against these unfair and unacceptable policies.
Ildikó Gáll-Pelcz (PPE), in writing. – (HU) From a legal standpoint, the present summit did not create an easy situation. What we were expecting did not happen, stability was not created, meaning that the trust of the markets could not be regained. Of course it would be worth examining whether this should be our primary aim at all, or whether regaining the trust of the European citizens should take precedence. An agreement has been reached on several matters, pointing to a strengthening of the budgetary union, but an intergovernmental fiscal agreement such as this cannot serve as a satisfactory solution in crisis management. In terms of content, we do have an intergovernmental agreement that brings balance to the national budgets and ensures the application of a correction mechanism to reduce general government deficit, as well as the application of automatic sanctions in excessive deficit procedures, but as regards form, it is unclear how we can put all this into effect. The pact concluded at the summit can be fulfilled only if a Community method for its implementation is found as soon as possible. At the same time, we must not forget that besides measures taken in order to ensure stability, key steps towards economic growth would still be life-saving, yet were unfortunately not brought up at the summit. A shadow has once again been cast on the targets set for job creation and economic growth. Furthermore, we must not forget that this new agreement has also resulted in new national commitments, and therefore countries that make their support for the pact conditional on parliamentary authorisation, including Hungary, are in the right.
Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (S&D), in writing. – The outcomes of the recent EU summit of 8-9 December 2011 are partly satisfying. On the one hand, I am pleased leaders took a firm decision to apply new fiscal rules to EU Member States for tackling the euro area crisis. On the other hand, I deplore the fact that this agreement failed to include all 27 EU Member States. In the new situation, reflected by the UK’s veto, many questions remain to be answered: for example, what is the role of Parliament in the new situation? What parts of the new EU Treaty will apply, and to whom? How will the UK’s veto affect future discussions on plans to introduce EU-wide taxes? These questions must be resolved in order to end confusion and restore trust in the euro currency. So long as we do not have concrete answers, speculators, who have played their share in provoking the euro crisis, continue making money by betting on the future of the euro area and the future of the EU. I remain hopeful that solutions can be found to these problems within the EU common framework, so as to avoid new divisions between EU Member States and to preserve integration and trust – two essential features for the future of our Union.
Louis Grech (S&D), in writing. – The crisis buffeting the eurozone demands decisive action to restore stability and certainty. However, the outcome of the recent Council summit will lead us further down the path of austerity without a plan for future jobs and growth. Saving the euro will require much more than a crash diet that will fall apart in the long run. What is needed is a long-term vision that will withstand the test of time. Otherwise, we would merely be prolonging the patient’s illness instead of issuing the correct prescription. Just as with the single market, Member States must take the necessary ownership and responsibility to overcome the shortcomings exposed by the sovereign debt crisis. The role of the ECB will also have to evolve to address present economic realities. Therefore, we must make every effort in 2012 to strengthen the euro and the single market, the two pillars of European integration. Altering or reversing course would risk creating a two, or even three-speed Europe. My hope is that the new treaty will be negotiated on a fair playing field, with the input of the European Parliament and national parliaments, to ensure the treaty has proper democratic accountability.
Liem Hoang Ngoc (S&D), in writing. – (FR) The new Treaty that the German right intends to push through would deprive the Member States of a budgetary policy by forcing them to implement austerity policies that are set to plunge Europe into recession without reducing deficits. Economic policy choices would be enshrined in the constitutions and placed under the authority of a Court of Justice. Automatic penalties would be applied to countries whose public deficit exceeds 3% of their GDP. However, this Treaty fails to include any measures for resolving the economic and social crisis: there is nothing about Eurobonds or about the ECB intervening on the primary market to purchase government bonds. Therefore, how can anyone be surprised about the rise in euroscepticism? We urgently need to show that a progressive economic strategy is possible. We call for the creation of a European treasury, the embryo of which could be the European Financial Stability Facility, and for an independent rating agency, attached to the European Court of Auditors. The power to rate sovereign debts would be taken away from private agencies, in which there are obvious conflicts of interest. We also propose the creation of an investment pact to revive the economy through the exclusion of investment expenditure from the calculation of public deficits. With an EU budget swelled by Eurobonds and the financial transaction tax, we would fund the upwards convergence of competitiveness levels and social and fiscal rules.
Danuta Jazłowiecka (PPE), in writing. – (PL) The European Council summit held last week was once again called a meeting of last resort. Analysts and journalists were constantly trying to convince us that it was the final opportunity to make a decision on saving the common currency. When you look at the consensus reached from this perspective, you may feel disappointed. However, the compromise achieved, which may help the Member States to improve the soundness of their public finances and thus save the common currency, should be appreciated. Yet the fact that the proposed changes will not be included in the Treaties, but adopted instead by an intergovernmental agreement, is a significant deficiency. The question that arises is this: what will be the role of the Community’s institutions in the framework of the emerging fiscal union? We need to take all possible measures to maintain the strong position of Community institutions, because they are the only safeguards of the principle of solidarity and equality amongst states. We must not allow a situation to arise where we save the euro but we lose the Union.
We should not forget that only the acquis communautaire and EU institutions guarantee an equal position for all Member States. Despite the shortcomings of the agreement, we should welcome the fact that the intergovernmental agreement reached is not limited only to the euro area, but is open to other members of the EU. Six countries outside the euro area, including Poland, have decided to opt for deeper integration, and have once again demonstrated responsibility for the whole Community and a desire to achieve an internally strong Europe.
Sandra Kalniete (PPE), in writing. – (LV) Last week’s European Council meeting is only a small step in the right direction towards stabilising the economic situation in Europe. However, if we wish to restore economic growth and strengthen Europe’s competitiveness in the world, we have to build a fully fledged fiscal union with integrated economic governance. Unfortunately, politicians from many Member States have still not realised how critical the situation is in the euro area and the extent of their responsibility for the future of the continent and the prevention of a downturn in the global economy. My wish is for the Member States to prepare a new intergovernmental agreement as soon as possible in due consultation with the national parliaments and the European Parliament, and I hope that the Member States will not delay in amending the European Treaties in order to restore growth in the EU. I should like to emphasise that the return of the British Government to the negotiating and decision-making table is in both the common interests of Europe and the national interests of Great Britain.
Patrick Le Hyaric (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (FR) The conclusions of the last European Council are extremely serious. The key words are ‘discipline’ and ‘penalties’, imposed by technocratic and supranational authorities that will force their budgetary and economic choices on the States from now on without consulting the national parliaments.
By refusing to ask the European Central Bank to buy back all or some of the debt of struggling States, the Council has decided to give carte blanche to the financial markets. Worse still, it has been decided that, for three years, the Central Bank will lend unlimited funds at a rate of 1% to private banks, thereby allowing them to get rich by taking money off the States, and hence the people, by lending to the States at high interest rates.
Democracy and national sovereignty are under threat; the principle of justice is coming under serious attack. This project is very worrying. I call for it to be opposed.
Petru Constantin Luhan (PPE), in writing. – (RO) The current economic and financial crisis has increased the inequalities and macro-economic imbalances, while last week’s European Council meeting has produced a number of measures which are particularly important in terms of consolidating fiscal governance and coordinating economic policies long term. The results achieved mark a first step in the right direction, but they are not enough to resolve the state debt crisis or other problems which we are currently facing.
The reluctance of some European leaders is unacceptable during these particularly difficult times for us. I would like to congratulate the Member States which, although not part of the euro area, have shown their confidence in and support for continuing the common European monetary project. The decision made by these states to sign up to an agreement is beneficial to the whole European Union. I think that, now more than ever, the EU needs to take action and make itself heard through a single, common, powerful voice, demonstrating that we share the same interests. This is the only way that we will successfully restore confidence in the financial markets, in the single currency and in our common European project.
Marian-Jean Marinescu (PPE), in writing. – (RO) The European Council meeting held on 9 December 2011 failed to impose its viewpoint on the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area, even though it noted once again that all the required legal conditions have been fulfilled. Due to the lack of political will, the message conveyed by the Council was not persuasive enough. The constant veto from the Netherlands raises doubts about the legitimacy of this state’s declarations which, on the one hand, state that Romania has done its duty and complied with all the requirements set out by the Schengen acquis, while, on the other, it does not comply with the political agreement signed with the other Member States.
The Netherlands’ stance not only affects access to Schengen for Romania and Bulgaria, but also the functioning of the EU in general, as this state’s domestic policy is at odds with the commitments it has assumed at EU level. EU governments must speak with a single voice to prevent the freedom of movement of European citizens being jeopardised and to avoid, in the future, ending up restoring internal border controls. I hope that the European Council meeting to be held in March 2012 will return to this subject and make the right decision: to let Romania and Bulgaria join the Schengen area.
Rareş-Lucian Niculescu (PPE), in writing. – (RO) I would like to welcome the adoption of these ambitious fiscal governance proposals during the European Council meeting. Romania already implemented in 2010 the measures which are currently being demanded of Member States in the euro area and of those wishing to sign up to the intergovernmental agreement.
Romania has had a deficit of 4.4% in 2011, has a draft budget with a budget deficit of 1.9% in 2012, and is heading towards a zero deficit in 2013, therefore in line with the provisions of the agreement.
These are not new rules in the European Union as they already existed, but were simply breached. In fact, imposing strong sanctions against those failing to abide by them and introducing additional guarantees to ensure compliance with them are two absolutely vital conditions at this moment.
Sławomir Witold Nitras (PPE), in writing. – (PL) The outcome of the recent European Council summit is in line with the demands repeated in this House since the beginning of the crisis and partly strengthens economic management instruments included in the so-called ‘six-pack’. None of us doubts any longer that the debt and budget deficits are a major threat to the viability of monetary union and should be subject to a closer inspection procedure at a Community level. The provisions contained in the European Council’s conclusions should be seen as a step in the right direction but are not sufficiently far reaching. These provisions will only enter into force a year from now, at the earliest, which does not correspond with the need for rapid reform of European structures.
Increased automaticity of sanctions, the requirement for ex ante control of draft national budgets, strengthening of the IMF rescue programme, faster ratification of the Treaty establishing the European Stability Mechanism are pertinent ideas, and they cannot be faulted for lack of soundness in the long term. However, the source of uncertainty as to the effectiveness of the fiscal pact lies primarily in the vague legal nature of the future agreement, in particular, as regards its position in the hierarchy of Community law, and thus the extent to which the support of the European institutions can be used. Concerns have also been raised regarding the fact that the Community method of regulation has been dismissed in favour of the intergovernmental method. The European institutions made another statement to the financial markets concerning fiscal adjustment, leaving unanswered the question of differences in competitiveness across the euro area countries.
Kristiina Ojuland (ALDE), in writing. – The decisions that were reached at the European Council came indeed at a very crucial moment. However, in addition to that, I would like to suggest paying more attention to the e-governance of the Member States as well as the EU. The mode in which citizens communicate with their respective countries or the supranational institutions is, in many countries, still very archaic. It is high time to step into the 21st century and adapt to modern technologies. E-governance is cheap, transparent, decreases bureaucracy and corruption and is convenient and user-friendly for the citizens. I am confident that it complements the austerity measures, while having also a positive impact on societies and governments. Estonia is a good example. After introducing e-governance, the corruption has decreased significantly – the rate is one of the lowest in the EU. We have managed to cut down the number of public servants to optimum and the citizens are not referred from one office with a typewriter to another. Let us put an ‘e’ to Europe!
Alfredo Pallone (PPE), in writing. – (IT) My remarks are addressed to President Van Rompuy and President Barroso. Last week’s Council was not a failure, much less a huge success. However, the dissent of one country attracted much more attention than the agreement reached by the other 26. I think the latter aspect needs to be emphasised more strongly. Important decisions were made and politicians finally took action after months of inactivity, as they realised there was a need for a number of measures that Parliament had been calling for for months. Now is the time to put them into practice. The focus is on fiscal and budgetary discipline and on control by the EU institutions. Quite rightly, we need to go back to having rules on budgetary discipline, and procedures must be automatic. I have noticed, however, that Parliament is hardly ever mentioned, and I hope this can be remedied in the work to be done over the coming weeks. We must not forget growth, though, because if we adopt strict rules on government budgets and also call for rigorous structural reforms, we must also implement measures for growth. In addition, we must consider Eurobonds in the various forms that have been proposed, and I hope they can become part of the package in the near future.
Mitro Repo (S&D), in writing. – (FI) The political outcome of the EU summit in December is almost zero in terms of its value and beating the current crisis. Crucial economic matters were simply not discussed. There was no talk of growth, employment or defeating the recession. The subject discussed was mainly just budgetary discipline. At the summit, it was decided that the direction to take should be towards closer cooperation in the form of budgetary discipline, though outside EU structures. This is a setback for European democracy, the guarantee of which lies in cooperation between the European Parliament and the national parliaments.
I am afraid that, in addition to the debt and economic crises, we now also have a democratic crisis, one achieved at the EU summit, with economic union being established outside EU structures, and with no democratic control. In my opinion, the elimination of investor responsibility, such as is the case with the Greek debt bailout package, is a lowly acknowledgement of market forces at the expense of ordinary taxpayers, who are not even to blame for the present crisis.
Regarding Finland, I would say that the letter of the constitution should be obeyed. Finland should not remain outside the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), however: through negotiation, we need to achieve a political solution by March.
Decisions were also taken at the EU summit on the enlargement of the EU. Croatia is to become the 28th Member State of the EU in July 2013. The granting of Serbia’s EU candidate country status was blocked by Germany. Overall, the EU’s enlargement policy is its most influential form of foreign policy, and the enlargement process is a positive impetus for the whole of Europe. Serbia leads the way in the Western Balkans region as a whole, with regard both to its economy and its political stability. Hopefully, Germany will not use its opposition to dampen Serbia’s enthusiasm to join the EU.
József Szájer (PPE), in writing. – (HU) It is evident that the financial crisis affects not only the euro area but the entire EU. Our most important task at the moment is therefore to create economic stability in Europe. However, it makes quite a difference how this is implemented. The agreement concluded last week at a political level foresees a new decision-making mechanism within an intergovernmental framework. However, this is something for which the Treaties do not grant authorisation. The solution thereby weakens the application of the Community method. The budgetary proposal to be drafted also intends to regulate issues which significantly concern the matter of Member State sovereignty. Therefore, if an intergovernmental solution is adopted, the active involvement of national parliaments will be crucial, as the decision will have a fundamental effect on the sovereignty of all countries.
Adrian Severin (NI), in writing. – This European Council's major achievements are: 1. The split between eurozone and non-eurozone Member States was avoided; 2. Compulsory economic, fiscal and budgetary governance was agreed upon. This opens the way to a new European architecture. What starts with a treaty may finish with a constitution. The summit’s negative results are: 1. The concept of solidarity is missing from the envisaged solutions. Or, solidarity is key to economic growth and job creation, both being the foundation of a social Europe. 2. The lack of short-term solutions, necessary to regain the confidence of the markets, but also that of the European citizens. The UK’s self-isolation is an opportunity rather than a crisis. Even if regrettable, it is not lethal. The future negotiations must include all willing eurozone and non-eurozone members. Including the EU institutions is also necessary. Legal coherence must be ensured between the intergovernmental treaty and European legislation; eventually, they should form one juridical instrument. The treaty should regulate the coherence between various internal and external European policies. All its signatories would be automatically included into the Schengen area and the eurozone. This might represent the birth of a new Europe, with the UK joining it or being only its partner.
Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D), in writing. – (RO) The conclusions from the European Council meeting (8-9 December 2011) highlight the need for the new economic governance to be supplemented by the monitoring of social and employment policies, especially those which may have a positive impact on macro-economic stability and economic growth. We welcome the fact that the need was established during the European Council meeting for specific measures both at national and EU level aimed at the most vulnerable groups, especially the young unemployed. I think that it is vital for Member States to devise urgently measures capable of creating jobs in their countries in order to increase growth and cut budget deficits.
We call for a broad, transparent process of public debate to be held prior to adopting a ‘fiscal pact’, which will lead to a ‘union of fiscal stability’ in the euro area, and measures for consolidating the stabilisation instruments and providing the necessary financial resources. In the chapter on energy, the European Council has called for rapid agreement on energy efficiency proposals and for making the comprehensive nuclear safety review a priority. We welcome the call made to the European Council to adopt as soon as possible the decision on the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area, with the European Council acknowledging once again that all the required legal conditions for adopting this decision have been fulfilled.
Georgios Toussas (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (EL) The statements by the President of the Commission, Mr Barroso, and the President of the European Council, Mr Van Rompuy, as well as the stand taken by the political representatives of capital in plenary of the European Parliament on the outcome of the EU summit held on 8 and 9 December, illustrate yet again that this new compromise is an abortive compromise. The conflict is escalating between the bourgeois governments of the EU Member States, which are defending the interests of their own monopoly groups in the face of relentless competition as to who will lose less and who will lose more from the inevitable collapse of capital that will result from the deep capitalist crisis in the EU and the euro area. No ‘fiscal compact’, no ‘strengthening of economic governance’, no ‘golden rule’ on balanced budgets or ‘debt brake’ in the euro area and the EU can overturn the capitalist law of unequal economic growth, which is increasing as the crisis develops. These iron mechanisms are being set up to save the monopolies and crush the people with a new storm of anti-labour measures throughout the EU: spiralling unemployment, wage and pension cuts, flexible forms of employment as the general rule, abolition of collective agreements, increase in the retirement age and the abolition of national insurance, health, welfare and education systems and social benefits. They are making the workers’ lives a living hell.
Kathleen Van Brempt (S&D), in writing. – (NL) The ‘Last chance summit’ has ultimately turned into a ‘Summit of missed opportunities’. Having had a weekend to consider the fallout, ‘the markets’ have responded in a way which leaves little room for interpretation: credit rating agencies are preparing their credit downgrades and, yesterday, Italy was still paying nearly 6% interest – and this despite the arrival of Mario Monti and his technocratic cabinet – albeit under pressure from ‘the markets’ and Europe. This is, at the same time, one of the very disturbing and more fundamental trends of the euro crisis. After all, it has caused a huge rift in many arenas: in the economic, budgetary and political arenas, but also in the democratic arena.
However, it is ironic that, at a time when more and more citizens are taking to the streets and various protest movements are springing up like mushrooms out of the ground, the European decision-making process is being scrupulously kept behind closed doors. Worse still, the European Parliament is being sidelined. Nevertheless, one of the lessons which can be learned from this debate is that we would actually be able to achieve a result in tackling the crisis if the European Parliament were allowed to join the table. After all, we do have a consensus here that we should take steps that will offer people future prospects and introduce Eurobonds across party lines and national borders. The only genuine solution is a democratic one.