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Notre Europe-Jacques Delors Institute
27 November 2012

Book review: "Democracy in Europe - Looking further ahead", by Sylvie Goulard and Mario Monti

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This book review focuses on four main themes of an institutional nature: The role of the HOSGs; the job of 'rethinking' EMU; the issue of differentiation (eurozone/EU27); and parliamentary control by a "eurozone parliament" within the EP.

Review by Valentin Kreilinger,',WIDTH, 300, SHADOW, true, FADEIN, 300, FADEOUT, 300, STICKY, 1,DURATION,3500)" onmouseout="UnTip()");">Notre Europe Jacques Delors Institute

Referring to the present circumstances of the European Union, the two authors stress that “some people may argue that the immediate priority is not to strengthen democracy [...] but to emerge from the crisis” (p. 8). The authors believe, on the contrary, that “democracy is not just a value in and of itself, it is also the precondition for sustainable action”.

Rethinking the Economic and Monetary Union

The two authors suggest two moves to improve the functioning of the European Council, by:

  • involving the European Parliament more closely “in the exercise being conducted by Herman Van Rompuy” (p. 230);
  • “[d]rafting and adopting a code of conduct [for heads of state and government] laying down rules governing the communication of the European Council’s decisions” (p. 230).

The major question arising in the view of S Goulard and M Monti is this: “[A]re we going to carry on with a rationale based on coordinating national decisions? Or are we going to move towards common – or at least far more interlocking – economic, budgetary and social policies requiring a form of political responsibility at the European level?” (pp. 76-77).

S Goulard and M Monti feel that the “Six-Pack” and the Fiscal Compact (TSCG) are likely to provide some solutions thanks to their stringent rules, but they propose going even further, in particular with: 

  • “the intervention of the Court of Justice [which] was initially considered” (p. 117), but then hardly, or only minimally, included in the Fiscal Compact (TSCG);
  • “ex ante supervision of national budgets by the European Commission” as provided for under the “Two-Pack” which is currently being negotiated by the European Parliament and the Member States.

The issue of differentiation

The authors argue that the unity of the 27-strong Europe is crucial in order to protect everyone’s prosperity, but that at the same time “a kind of right to self-determination for the eurozone deserves to be acknowledged” (p. 196) Thus the authors stress that:

  • the idea of a treasury for the eurozone, as proposed by Jean-Claude Trichet, is worth exploring;
  • Protocol 14 in the treaties setting up the “Eurogroup” states that the group exists “pending the euro becoming the currency of all of the Union’s Member States” (p. 197);
  • it is difficult “to explain to the citizens in the eurozone […] that the European Parliament’s economic and monetary committee can ever be sustainably chaired by a Briton; and this, completely regardless of her own personal qualities” (p. 198).

Parliamentary control

In the view of Sylvie Goulard and Mario Monti, “the most complex question, [...], is to ensure that this [Economic and Monetary Union] executive does not end up like a tiny canary on its perch, swinging over a void, but that it has both services and resources available to it, and even more importantly, that it reports to a parliamentary assembly” (p. 197).

In order to resolve the problem of parliamentary control, the authors propose setting up a eurozone parliament within the European Parliament, an idea which “would make it possible both to maintain the unity of the 27 and to meet the requirements of the 17; and this, without excluding anyone or incurring needless costs“ (p. 199-200). Parliamentarians from Member States not in the eurozone would have an observer’s role, and in its plenary sessions the European Parliament would have two groups “one embedded in the other” (p. 200). In the authors’ view, “[th]e same kind of reasoning could be applied [...] to the college of Commissioners” (p. 200).

Lastly, the authors recommend envisaging modalities for treaty revision, first and foremost with respect to the ratification process, to get around the “deadlock of unanimity” (p. 233). In addition, a process for revising the treaties should be considered in order to “give competitiveness back its job of fighting inequality” and to “allow democracy to emerge across borders” (p. 235).

Full review

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