Eurobonds: MEPs voice reservations about Commission proposals

24 Nov 2011 10:17 AM

MEPs gave a cautious welcome to the three options presented by the Commission for introducing Eurobonds when they met Commissioner Rehn on Wednesday in the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee. The committee will draw up a resolution on the options tabled. This debate followed another on Tuesday with Commissioners Almunia and Barnier, which focused on draft EU rules on credit rating agencies and plans to recapitalise banks.

Whereas a number of MEPs tried to press the Commissioner Rehn for more details on the content and timing of its proposals, others expressed concern over a possible lack of democratic legitimacy as a result of the Commission’s insistence on the need for stronger budgetary discipline and surveillance to go with Eurobonds. 

Philippe Lamberts (Greens/EFA, BE), called for all Eurobond measures proposed by the Commission to be submitted for approval to the European Parliament, while national governments should submit their commitments to their national parliaments for approval, a view shared by Pervenche Berès (S&D, FR).

Sophie in’t Veld (ALDE, NL), also wanted the Commission to involve national parliaments when taking sometimes unpopular measures, perceived as “Brussels dictats”. Rodi Kratsa (EPP, EL), also voiced concern over the "democratic legitimacy" of the Commission proposals. Nikolas Chountis (GUE, EL), protested against "meddling" by the Commission in national politics.

Elisa Ferreira (S&D, PT), was worried by the lack of Commission proposals for stimulating growth, inter alia in the "six pack" legislation on economic governance, which is to enter into force by the end of this year. Diogo Feio (EPP, PT), wondered how Eurobonds could ensure a combination of economic growth with economic discipline.

Sylvie Goulard (ALDE, FR), who will steer a resolution on Eurobonds through Parliament, was informed by Mr Rehn that the consultation of the various players would be completed on 8 January. The Commission would then decide how to proceed further.

Marianne Thyssen (EPP, BE), said she would prefer the Commission to come forward with a concrete proposal for introducing Eurobonds, which would spur Member States into putting their house in order faster.

Financial transaction tax

The independence and reliability of statistical data and the proposal for a EU tax on financial transactions  were the main points raised by MEPs in a subsequent debate with taxation Commissioner Algirdas Semeta on  plans  to improve  the  quality of Eurostat.

The  possibility of actually introducing a financial transaction tax (FTT)  as part of the proposals for new own resources  for the EU  was questioned  by Anni Podimata (S&D, EL) , although she admitted the need  for such  an  EU-wide tax.

Kay Swinburne (ECR, UK) stressed that three Member States had already stated their opposition to  an  FTT, which she said meant that any further work was useless, as unanimity among Member States was required. The Commissioner, however, felt that the positions of Member States  were converging, and especially  of those in the euro zone, although the UK remained “quite sceptical”.

The need to ensure complete reliability of statistics was stressed by several MEPs. In reply, Mr Semeta said that Eurostat is already well-equipped to avoid any political interference when delivering data, and that he was committed to ensuring that Eurostat data are also perceived as reliable, especially by markets.

MEPs debate credit rating agencies and bank recapitalisation with Almunia and Barnier

On Tuesday, draft EU rules on credit rating agencies and plans to recapitalise banks were took centre stage in an Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee debate with Commissioners Joaquin Almunia (competition) and Michel Barnier (internal market).

The many problems created by credit rating agencies include conflicts of interest, opaque methodology and possible market abuse, but there is no anti-trust issue with them, said Commissioner Almunia in reply to a question by Antolin Sànchez Presedo (S&D, ES).

Jean Paul Gauzès (EPP, FR), welcomed the fact that credit rating agencies are finally going to be supervised. Rapporteur on the future CRA Directive Leonardo Domenici (S&D, IT), noted that the measures originally proposed had been weakened, and said that Parliament would seek to restore their bite.

Commissioner Barnier stressed that rating agencies are needed to measure risks, but accepted that their evaluations should be exact, transparent and credible, and that they should be able to explain their ratings. Clear rules will reduce the risk of them causing serious problems, he added.

Recapitalising  banks

Banks must recapitalise without harming the real economy and resume lending to businesses, said Commissioner Barnier, adding that financial markets must accept the new rules, but will also benefit from having a stable framework to work in, he added.