MEPs seek answers on summit deals
The European Parliament weighed into the sovereign-debt crisis discussions on Monday (29 August), with a special debate called by MEPs who are concerned about being sidelined in the increasingly inter-governmental negotiations on a response.
Olli Rehn, the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, told the meeting that governments had to “accelerate the approval procedures” to implement the agreements of the 21 July summit, and find a solution to the delays caused by Finland’s collateral demands.
MEPs expressed concern that the delays were affecting not only the rescue package, but also the search for an agreement between the Parliament and member states on the so-called ‘six-pack’ of legislative proposals for stricter economic governance.
Rehn agreed that this needed “urgent” agreement, and Jacek Rostowski, the finance minister of Poland, which holds the presidency of the Council of Ministers, told MEPs that the six-pack would be – as was the case for the previous, Hungarian, presidency – a “priority”.
Jean-Claude Trichet, the president of the European Central Bank, drew on both issues to demand swift action. “We expect from governments strict respect for the principle of budgetary discipline and effective mutual surveillance,” he told MEPs. “It is of utmost importance that these commitments are now implemented.” He demanded the “full and timely implementation” of the 21 July agreement.
Rehn also stressed that implementation was “very important in order to overcome the current crisis”, adding that he expected national governments to have completed the process by the end of September.
The dispute surrounding the Finnish-Greek bilateral deal on collateral also needed to be settled “very soon”, the commissioner said. The Commission is scrutinising the arrangements to ensure that they are “legally sound” and consistent with the financing plans drawn up at the summit.
Any agreement on collateral for Finland, or for any other country, has to be approved by all eurozone member states. Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg, who chairs meetings of the Eurogroup, told MEPs that he did not support Finland’s demands, but that he expected a solution to be found by the next meeting of eurozone finance ministers on 16 September. “We are looking for another solution and you shouldn’t think that the collateral guarantee will stop us implementing the various elements of the 21 July decisions,” he said.
Looking further ahead, Rehn suggested that changes were needed in the way that eurozone policies were decided, calling for “more institutional clarity”, a better “division of labour” and an improvement in communication by the Eurogroup.
Juncker also voiced his concerns about communication problems, which some have blamed for contributing to turmoil on financial markets. “The financial markets may not have been persuaded by what we’ve done, I think that’s probably true,” he acknowledged. “When it comes to communication, we’re not as good as we might be, but then I’m not entirely persuaded by the financial markets either.”
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