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PV 18/01/2012 - 16.2
CRE 18/01/2012 - 16.2
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Verbatim report of proceedings
Wednesday, 18 January 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

16.2. Conclusions of the European Council meeting (8-9 December 2011) on a draft international agreement on a Fiscal Stability Union (vote)

– After the vote on paragraph 3:


  Daniel Cohn-Bendit, (Verts/ALE).(DE) Mr President, I do not want to correct you, but I believe we had agreed that the speeches from the group chairs would come before the vote. If I am wrong, I apologise. If not, you should apologise.


  President. − Mr Cohn-Bendit, you are right. I must say at this point that the members of the Sittings Service have just told me that they are at fault. That is not true. I am entirely to blame. I can tell you that if I had still been a group chair, I would have reacted in just the same way as Mr Cohn-Bendit. I have been informed that it is not the group chairs who are speaking, which means that there will be a real improvement in quality.

Mr Brok, when you stop talking to Ms Tymoshenko on the phone, you can give your speech.


  Elmar Brok, on behalf of the PPE Group.(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, it would be good if Ms Tymoshenko were not in prison and I could speak to her on the phone.

(Sustained applause)

Mr President, I would like to thank you and your predecessor and also the group chairs for the restraint that has been shown so far during the negotiations. It is obvious that some members of the Council have not taken a particularly friendly approach during all the phases. However, we have the impression, after the most recent session last Thursday and on the basis of what we have heard, that things could be moving in the right direction. Nevertheless, in the light of the previous period it is, of course, difficult for us to believe that this will be the case and, therefore, we are waiting for the next draft, which should be ready tomorrow.

I would like to make it clear on behalf of my group and I believe also on behalf of the two Members who will be speaking next that this agreement is not our first choice. It would be better if everything had been included in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) from the start. My second point is that this agreement must not result in a divided Europe. For this reason, it must be drafted in such a way that the 26 countries that want to be involved can be involved. My third point is that the rights of the European Parliament and the European Union institutions must be protected and that any implementation which is transferred into legislation must follow the regulations of the TFEU and the ordinary legislative procedure, so that we do not end up with two legal bases within the European Union.

Ladies and gentlemen, we must make it clear that austerity measures alone will not resolve the problems. Growth and structural change are needed as well. This is also the position of the European Parliament.

Finally, I would like to say that we must follow the rules in Protocol 1 of the Treaty concerning cooperation between the national parliaments and the European Parliament. We have a joint obligation in this area which we must fulfil on the basis of common rules. As the agreement will rightly expire in five years at the latest and will be transferred into the TFEU – the position of the European Parliament on this has been accepted – we should ensure that there will be no new institutions which make this transfer process more difficult. The European Union institutions are the only valid ones. All the parties to the agreement which are in the euro, which want to join the euro and which will be joining the euro must be present at the Euro Summit. We do not want any divisions here. All 26 Member States must have the same rights. We want a unified Europe.


  Roberto Gualtieri, on behalf of the S&D Group.(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, as Mr Brok reminded us, this Parliament has adopted a critical approach to the new international agreement, which is reflected in the resolution we are about to approve.

We have given the reasons for our criticism on several occasions. At an institutional level we believe that the tools provided by the treaties would have made it possible to avoid the damage of an intergovernmental agreement and to strengthen governance and budgetary discipline in the euro area whilst remaining within the legal framework of the EU. It is a paradox that even before the ink on the ‘six-pack’ has dried, some Member States already want to amend it by intergovernmental means, introducing some elements that they had not asked for before, indeed in some cases that they had actually opposed. This is a step backwards and not forwards along the road to fiscal union.

On a political level we believe the economic slant of this agreement is dangerously unilateral, because without concrete measures to strengthen growth and solidarity the EU will not emerge from the crisis and the very objective of stability will not be achieved. We nevertheless felt that we had a duty to become active and constructively involved in limiting the damage to the edifice of the EU, defending the primacy of the Community method and Parliament’s prerogatives, and emphasising the necessity and urgency of shared management of sovereign debt.

It is extremely significant from a political point of view that the four pro-European groups have defined a shared platform of amendments along these lines.

Now we are waiting for the fourth draft of the agreement. It is clear that if not even the smallest points, on which there was agreement, are faithfully carried over into the text, Parliament will have recourse to all the tools at its disposal in order to oppose the agreement. However it is also clear that only a significant correction in approach, on an institutional and economic level, will be able to eliminate the reasons for our criticism and our determination to build a real European economic government based on the Community method and focusing on stability, growth and solidarity.


  Guy Verhofstadt, on behalf of the ALDE Group. Mr President, what we are doing is a very dangerous exercise. We are working on this treaty and my fear is that it could be used in future by the Council and the Member States as a way of tackling a number of problems outside the acquis communautaire, outside the secondary legislation and outside the normal Treaty provisions. We agreed with the negotiators – and this is also reflected in today’s resolution – to limit everything as much as possible to the so-called ‘golden rule’. If we go beyond that then we are in fact destroying the Community method.

We have three objectives. First of all there must be no double standards; we cannot accept that in the future in Europe. The Stability Pact is based on the Treaty and the secondary legislation, but the stability and growth policy is based on this treaty. This is unacceptable. There has to be one standard in the European Union and the eurozone, not two.

The same applies to the excessive deficit procedure. In future, if we are not able to amend this treaty, there will be two types of excessive deficit procedure: one on the deficit criterion and another with other rules on the debt criterion. Again double standards, that is my big fear.

Secondly, we have to have a binding provision in the treaty that this new treaty must comply with the provisions of existing treaties within at least five years, if possible within three. This must be a binding provision for the contracting parties.

Finally, we have to secure the role of the European Parliament so that Parliament and the President of the Parliament are able to participate in euro summits. These are informal summits and, as such, Parliament must be represented at them. Having said that, I am not sure that if we improve the treaty we can back the treaty. That is another discussion and another decision which we will have to take in the coming weeks.


  Daniel Cohn-Bendit, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(FR) Mr President, firstly I should like to thank my three fellow Members who included me in the discussion group in the spirit of solidarity, as was decided by the chairs of the parliamentary groups.

I should like to say two things about this treaty. Firstly, it is completely useless. We do not need this treaty. This is not a treaty; it is an intergovernmental agreement which is only there, according to those who invented it, to reassure the markets by demanding the integration into national constitutions of what is called the debt brake or the golden rule into national legislation.

All of the markets tell us that they are not interested anyway. We are therefore in the middle of establishing an intergovernmental agreement which does not interest the markets today because they want a policy design of the European economy for tomorrow. This treaty will not guarantee this policy design.

We are asking the Member States who sign this treaty to say, for example, that we need a road map for the Commission on a tax on financial transactions. We are asking for a road map on redemption funds, on Eurobonds. We will not have this in the treaty. In the opinion of our group, with this agreement – you see, I always say ‘treaty’ although it is an agreement –, we are wasting time by trying to improve something which is useless anyway. We are intelligent, we will improve it, but this is not the necessary response to the financial and economic crisis that Europe is currently experiencing.

Parliament needs to be clear. If it does not take legislative initiatives to ask that what needs to be done is done, it will not itself be doing what must be done to avert the crisis today.


  Martin Callanan, on behalf of the ECR Group. Mr President, I am sorry to have to admit it but I think I partly agree with Mr Cohn-Bendit for a change!

(Cries of ‘Oh!’ from the floor)

Not on all of what he said, obviously, but certainly the bit about the uselessness of this treaty because, while it might well succeed in solving the next crisis – and it may well have prevented this crisis if it had been part of the original Treaty on Monetary Union – it was not and is not going to do anything to solve the immediate difficulties. What is worse, if anything, is that the European Council diverted valuable political energy and resources away from facing the reality of the crisis. In the aftermath, what we have seen from many quarters is an attempt to make scapegoats out of those who neither caused the problem nor have the power to implement a solution. Perhaps this is in order to distract attention from the glaring failure of the summit.

I also agree completely with the Finnish Foreign Minister who said earlier this week that this whole contract is at best unnecessary and at worse harmful, and that Finland has reason to oppose the entire treaty. Congratulations to him for speaking the truth for a change.

But furthermore, let me say a word about the attacks that we have seen in this Parliament, and from the Commission, on the ratings agency. It is a little bit like blaming the weather forecasters for the rain in Brussels – and when the Commission announces that it intends not to tackle the problem but rather to regulate the way in which it is reported, then I know we really are in serious trouble!

Let us speak plainly, because the recommended medicine for many of the eurozone members at the heart of the crisis will kill the patient long before it can possibly achieve a cure. They are being asked to make ultimately futile gestures, and not to pursue serious solutions, because their debts in many cases are simply unsustainable and their fundamental uncompetitiveness is not being addressed by any of these measures. The obligations of continued eurozone membership are strangling the prospects of economic growth for a generation.

In the medium term they need substantial economic reform; in the short term, frankly, they need devaluation. The proponents of this treaty are, in my view, deluding themselves and attempting to delude the rest of us.


  Søren Bo Søndergaard, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (DA) Mr President, the plan is for the European Council to adopt this international treaty that we are debating today on 29 January. It will probably succeed, too. It will probably succeed in getting in adopted. On the other hand, it will not succeed in achieving the goal of the treaty, namely to ensure stability with regard to the euro. It will certainly not succeed in overcoming the crisis that the EU is currently experiencing. This treaty will damage Europe. It is the wrong medicine and the wrong method. It is the wrong medicine because we will obviously not create growth and prosperity by making cuts and savings. It will merely lead to a deeper crisis and more unemployment. If you do not believe us when we say this, you can ask Standard & Poor’s, for example. However, it is also the wrong method, because yet again it will increase integration in the EU without asking the people. Even the European Parliament has not had any real influence – even though we have been allowed to appoint three or four people to take part in the discussions. Ordinarily, we are the ones who, on paper, should represent the citizens of the EU.

What then will be the certain result of this method? It will be an increase in our detachment from the people. If we want to change the architecture of the EU then there is only one democratic way to do that and that is by convening a convention in which it is possible for different opinions to come through. It is with regret that we find that the Heads of State or Government in the EU have chosen a different way. Therefore, on behalf of my group, let me say that the adoption of this treaty will not be supported by us.


  Nigel Farage, on behalf of the EFD Group. Mr President, there is a very bad case of denial in this Chamber this morning, a total refusal to accept that the euro project is failing. Greece is on the verge of a default. The bail-out fund is creaking. The credibility of the European Central Bank itself is now being called into question. It is all on the verge of going belly-up, and yet when the credit rating agencies tell the truth you try and pretend it is not happening. In fact Mr Brok and others were suggesting that it is all some dastardly plot by the Americans, the British and the Anglo Saxon markets to bring down the euro. The agencies are nothing more than the canary in the mine. They are telling you the truth, so please listen to Standard and Poor’s when they say that austerity alone will not work. You are driving these countries into depression just to save your euro project.

But I must acknowledge that you have lost absolutely nothing when it comes to your powers of deception. No, that is still very much on course. It was Nick Clegg who gave us the clue – a man who, I suspect, is rather more popular here than he is back home these days. Clegg was asked whether there should be a referendum on the forthcoming treaty. He said there was no need for that because it was all going to be ‘folded into’ the existing treaties. I thought, ‘What the dickens is he talking about?’ Well, now I have learnt. Mr Cohn-Bendit made it clear: it is to be the ‘Community method’. It is to be legislation where you know you have a majority in this Parliament and you know, under qualified majority in the Council, you can get everything through.

Why are you doing it this way? It is simple, is it not? – it is to avoid referendums. Because you know that if a treaty was put to Ireland and many other countries, the answer would be ‘no’. The peoples of Europe do not want this sado-monetarist package. The peoples of Europe, particularly in the case of the South, need to get out of the euro, to have devaluation and a chance to re-establish themselves again. You are denying them that chance and, by pushing the ‘Community method’, you are destroying democracy in Europe. I hope you are all very proud of yourselves.


  Andreas Mölzer (NI).(DE) Mr President, at the most recent summit on the crisis in the monetary union, the Heads of State or Government obviously agreed that the crisis represented an opportunity to turn the monetary union into what was allegedly intended by the founders of the euro when they introduced the common currency, in other words, a fiscal and economic union.

However, the precursor to this, the European semester, which involves Brussels monitoring the national budgets, is likely to degenerate very quickly into what is simply a bureaucratic method of planning that lacks any real content and merely pays lip service to the idea. In the light of the current crisis, it may be necessary to put in place strong leadership in Europe. However, this must not result in the Germans and the French taking control.

It is important that we comply with the EU Treaties. This means in particular that we must also protect the rights of the smaller Member States. They must not be crushed by the centralist juggernaut in Brussels and they must not be pushed to the wall by the large Member States in the EU.

Instead of constantly transferring authority to Brussels and moving ahead with EU centralisation, which has itself contributed to the debt crisis, we must finally learn the right lessons from the crisis.

Instead of more centralisation and more centralism, we need to return to an association of states with equal rights which can follow their own economic and budgetary policies. We must take a new approach and this is why we may have to put on the agenda the division of the euro area and the establishment of a core hard monetary union. Otherwise, we undoubtedly run the risk of the healthy national economies in the euro area being affected by the debt crisis.


  José Manuel Barroso, President of the Commission. Mr President, today we are discussing this international agreement as part – and only as a specific part – of a wide-ranging and comprehensive approach for stronger discipline, increased convergence and reinforced coordination and governance, particularly in the euro area. If we want to ensure the viability of our common currency, and if we want to prevent in future the kind of crisis Europe is experiencing today, this is fundamental.

We must also keep in mind that this agreement is an essential element of a larger package of action to respond to the sovereign debt crisis, including a strengthened and anticipated European Stability Mechanism, which is urgently needed for the stability and coherence of the euro area.

The Commission has always considered that these new norms should be enshrined in the current treaties, in the Lisbon Treaty. For the reasons you all know, because unanimity between all Member States was not possible, that could not happen. The Heads of State and Government therefore took the decision to proceed with this international agreement or, as some prefer to say, international treaty.

The Commission left no ambiguity about the priority being an agreement that respects a certain number of principles, namely: the primacy of European Union law, the necessity of democratic accountability, the importance of the European institutions and the need to integrate the agreement into the current European treaties. These principles are, I believe, shared by the European Parliament. The Parliament and Commission delegations to the negotiations are standing firmly together in defence of those principles. Working in close cooperation, our delegations to the negotiations are achieving important progress.

First: together, we are firmly opposing attempts to develop new institutional set-ups. Instead, we have enshrined the principle that the European institutions will act on the basis of the EU Treaties, not as simple representatives of Member States.

Second: together, we are rejecting drafting that could have established parallel intergovernmental coordination of economic policy outside the European Union framework.

Third: together, we are insisting on language acknowledging the need for the European Union secondary legislation to implement key elements of the package agreed at the last European Council.

Fourth: together, we are proposing to include a strong integration clause in the draft which requires that, within five years at the most, the necessary steps are taken to integrate the substance of the agreement into the legal framework of the Union.

However, only last week the Commission was concerned by some choices made in the latest draft which could only lead to irritation and to division. As a result, at the meeting of the Working Group last Thursday, the Commission tabled amendments to ensure that the text is institutionally acceptable. They largely coincide with key points made by the delegates of this House.

We are insisting, first, on a correct clause safeguarding primacy of EU law and its full application, in particular that of EU procedures whenever the adoption of secondary law is required.

Second, that the Member States express their readiness to support a Commission proposal that will strengthen the ‘six-pack’ by introducing, for euro area Member States, a new range of medium-term objectives in line with the limits of the agreement.

Third, that the text reflects an adequate openness of euro summits to all Member States and recognises the position of the President of this Parliament.

Last but not least, that cooperation between national parliaments and the European Parliament must operate within the European Union Treaties in accordance with Protocol No 1, avoiding any impression that a number of competing assemblies at European level will emerge over time, thus weakening the European Parliament.

The Commission delegation will continue to participate constructively but vigilantly in this process. We remain confident that reasonable solutions can be found. The principles we are defending are the principles of democracy and accountability. They are the principles on which the European Union is founded and they reflect the right and proper role of the institutions. They are the principles that insist on the integrity of the entire European Union and all its Member States.

The euro area must be strengthened, yes, but not at the expense of the wider Union. The introduction of parallel structures would embed divisions that could jeopardise the Union and also jeopardise the single market and therefore the future viability of the euro itself. As we believe in the euro, and as we believe that the euro should be the currency of the whole European Union, we must not introduce new governance and structures that would lead to a split with Member States that intend to join it in the future. All Member States who agree with these principles should be associated with our position and I am very grateful to this House, and in particular to the European Parliament delegation, for its support in working for this common goal.

This agreement, if these rules are respected, can be an important tool in building a solid stability and growth agenda based on the Europe 2020 strategy, and also on the road map presented by the Commission. Noting that, from a legal point of view, this is an intergovernmental agreement, I hope that all Member States understand that politically, for its successful ratification and implementation, it needs the support of the European institutions, namely the European Commission, the European Central Bank and of course this European Parliament.


– Before the vote on paragraph 4:


  Elmar Brok (PPE).(DE) Mr President, we would like to add another bullet point to paragraph 4. I will read it out, because I think we omitted it when we formulated this paragraph, but during the debate it became clear that there was agreement on this point. The wording is:


(The oral amendment was accepted)


  President. − That concludes the vote.

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