Budget6 ‘FIASCO!’ Commissioner tells Council. It is an expensive mistake for ‘democratic institutions’ to cut the citizen out of the picture.
16, November, 2010
‘A fiasco!‘ ‘A kindergarten.’ That’s what Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski called the failure of the Council of Ministers and Parliament to agree in the Budget Conciliation Committee. It broke up soon after midnight on 16 November 2010. It became a dialogue of the deaf, the politics of the ‘kindergarten‘. Each was claiming the budget is my toy. Yet the budget is taxpayers’ money. Guess who was excluded from the meeting? Yes, the public!
European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek kept repeating his question about how to make the budget less crisis-prone in the future, but the Council refused to answer. It was not able to do so because some Member States would not discuss the matter. They claimed the budget was THEIR money. Whose money is it really? Who should decide how to spend it?
It is an expensive mistake to plan a crisis when the financial markets are scrutinizing the EU’s political will on financial matters and testing the euro. The honesty and integrity of governments is under the microscope. This crisis could easily be avoided if the European governance system put the citizen at the centre of its affairs rather than marginalizing him.
The Council wanted the EP’s agreement on the 2011 budget according to their whims. The Parliament which initially asked for a 6 percent increase rapidly changed its tune and agreed to accept the Council’s 2.9 percent. Why? That way Parliament could concentrate on a matter they considered a priority. Control. It wanted to establish clearer rules for the longer term to avoid the knock-down-drag-out discussions every year. A flexible mechanism under the new treaty was needed for the future finances, the Parliament maintained. Commissioner Lewandowski said it was a legitimate request of Parliament. But the Council refused to respond.
Instead neither party got what it wanted. The budget now moves into crisis mode with the possibility that next year’s budget will be fixed at the present level and doled out in monthly packages.
The Parliamentary delegation told the Council it had lost its position of trust. Never before said the Budget committee chairman, Alain Lamassoure, had the Parliament simply accepted the Council’s budget figure. However the removal of this financial point of contention only exposed more to daylight the Council’s lack of political interest in creating a new working relationship on the budget which would treat the Parliament as co-partner. The Council — or at least three or more member States — refused to discuss the subject. Their intention is simply to retain their governments’ power as the sole decider in budgetary matters.
Council President, Belgian Minister Melchior Wathelet told the Conciliation Committee that the lack of agreement would ‘hit the citizen‘. Really? The citizen was the main interested party left out of the whole discussion. The whole of the budget process involves a system that tries to shut out the citizen. Why? Because money is involved, the plaything of politicians. The citizen is incidental to the process. The budget involves taking taxes from the citizen, and spending it for the citizen. It was all done behind the citizen’s back and with the public being excluded wherever possible.
What was the scrap about? One so-called democratic institution was at loggerheads with another. Each had 27 delegates in the meeting. Both sides claimed (somewhere in the past) that they were representing the citizen either via his national government or via his parliamentarians. If they were both representing the citizen accurately and faithfully, why then was there such disagreement? Why was there a crisis? Who was the advocate for the citizen? Were neither?
It can easily be proved that none of the three institutions involved had the citizen’s welfare at heart. How? The citizen is totally excluded from the meetings and all the debates of the Council and the Conciliation Committee. The secret committees are the places where the politicians decide how much they will take out of the pocket of the citizen. The Conciliation Committee was a closed door affair. The so-called democratic institutions are ASHAMED to show their real behaviour on television.
This is all the more extraordinary when both institutions were quoting the Lisbon Treaty at each other. One Article they did not quote was article 15. It says: ‘The Union institutions …. shall conduct their work as openly as possible. The European Parliament shall meet in public, as shall the Council when considering and voting on a draft legislative act.‘
The Commission, which is supposed to represent all the interests in the Community and is guardian of the treaties, said nothing at this travesty.
The Council’s own meeting was advertised to the public as ‘Public debates and deliberations’. In reality it was not available to the public because the Council opened it for public viewing for one second on the internet. Then someone pressed the PAUSE button. Nothing was seen or heard until the final moments several hours later when it was clear that no agreement could be made. Not even on a simple text of a couple of sentences that was to represent their views on how exactly the Council and Parliament would work together.
The whole debating process would have been of major interest to citizens because it would show how their governments advocated, or failed to advocate, common action on the budget when they meet and talk to other European governments. Any voter would like to have this information. So would the media. It would provide means to analyse political ethics in action on raising and using tax.
The 27 members of the Council, finance ministers or their representatives of 27 Member States, then left the Council building to attend the joint meeting in room 5G3 of the European Parliament.
The Parliament had worked with commendable openness on the Budget question until the Conciliation Committee. It then fell in with the Council’s bad habits. The Conciliation took place in Parliament but Parliament immediately shut the doors to room 5G3 when the Council and Commission entered. Why? Who authorized this?
Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski characterised the whole affair as ‘self-centered and egoistical‘. This was to be expected from the people who brought Europe the Lisbon Treaty (Also Known As the Constitutional Treaty) in spite of its rejection by the citizens. In the Parliament’s library a few days before, Valery Giscard d’Estaing, the author of the Constitutional Treaty, addressed a meeting about Europe 2020. He explained that after the Constitutional Treaty had been soundly rejected in referendums, the politicians purposely thought of a way to pass the same text by making it unreadable. It was reproduced in the form of a list of amendments to the existing treaties. (A few non-controversial matters like the the European flag and anthem were left out — it was then called a simplified version.) The Council refused to publish the cut-and-paste list of amendments as a complete text.
That conjuring act was designed to try to fool the citizen and obliterate the citizen’s rights. It was immoral. So it is unlikely that anything moral will result from a method so ugly and in favour of a political cartel acting against democracy. That is proving to be the case. ‘Self-centered‘ and ‘egoistical‘ are clearly descriptions of institutions that have forgotten they are servants of the citizens not the bosses.
The citizens were rejected and ejected out of the system. And now the citizen-rejecting politicians (both Parliament and Council) want to speak for the citizen. In reality they are only speaking for themselves.
It bodes ill for future and those who wished to replace the supranational Community system by the inter-governmental Lisbon Treaty system.David Heilbron Price