EURDEMOCRACY

The European Parliament conducts its plenary Budget debate in public. It is obliged by Treaty articles, even if did not want to. Its Budget Committee is also open to the public. That is defined by the Rules of Procedure. There are many other meetings that Parliament holds, all usually in public.

Parliaments feel that they have a responsibility to have their meetings openly. It is the basis of democracy. They also feel like the local tennis club that everyone has a right to see that money is collected and handled properly. The EU should be based on the same principle.

The Lisbon Treaty FEU article 15.2 says: “The European Parliament shall meet in public“. Why? Because the other party to an open debate is the public. If any meeting is open it means that the public, even if it is represented by one lonely journalist, is also present. That is healthy when it comes to public’s own money.

The Council on the other hand likes to do things in secret. This is especially the case when it comes to money. Whose money? Not their own money but the public’s money. Why should the public’s money be a matter of secrecy? If ministers are doing nothing improper, what motive would they have to close the doors? Should not public servants — government ministers (minister means servant) — be open and frank about other people’s, that is, their master’s money?

So which attitude do you think is correct? The Parliament where the budget is discussed in public or the Council’s where they do what they like in secret and tell the public what the Council are doing with the public’s money?

Under the Lisbon Treaty we have a new situation. Both institutions have a say in the EU budget. If there is no agreement, the budget is discussed in what is called a Conciliation Committee.

So whose rules will succeed? Will the Parliament make the Council be more democratic? Or will the Council force the Parliament to close the doors of its committee room and cut a deal away from the eyes and ears of the public and the cameras and microphones of the press?

Are Parliament’s democrats strong enough to stand up to such obvious undemocratic practice?

Today, 27 October 2010, we found out. Parliament’s President Jerzy Buzek and Alain Lamassoure, chairman of the Budgets Committee, met with Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme plus a score of other officials, including those from the Commission.

The Parliament closed its doors of room 5G3. Parliament officials patrolled the corridors to see no one from the public snook in. Shame on them! Any journalist asking entrance was refused. He was told the meeting about public money was private.

The Council faced out the Parliament. And the Parliament blinked.

It is worse than that. Both the Parliament and the Council are bound by the same Treaty law. They are bound in the same sentence to be open and have open sessions on the budget.

Let me now quote article 15.2 in full: The European Parliament shall meet in public, as shall the Council when considering and voting on a draft legislative act.

If the Budget is not a legislative act and the Conciliation Committee is not involved in drafting that legislative act, what is the Treaty talking about? Money is the source of nearly all legislative acts.

At this time the public is undergoing vast programmes of austerity, cut backs and reforms. Thousands of employees are being thrown out of work. Why? because of budget mismanagement and plain fraud in high places. Massive demonstrations on the streets have rocked several European capitals. Acting in almost total oblivion of this, the Council and Parliament want massive increases in the budget. The public should be fully a partner and at least an observer of the draft legislative acts of the budget. It is its right.

Who is thumbing their noses at law of the treaty? Whose money is it any way?

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