February 7, 2011
By introducing European Semester, the flagship of today’s European economic programme and by being authorized to somewhat control national budgets, the Commission wants to be seen as primus inter pares among the member states. But there are three possible obstacles too.
First – authorization
This authorization is not wrong in itself, what we can be curious to see is how the Commission will act. In this case the EC is a supervisory supranational body, which has limited own financial resources. The Commission gets payed by the citizens of the member states, but offers little in retour. The EC is not contributing directly (e. g.) neither the health care, nor the social expenditures. The problems of European legitimacy are not to solve by being authorized for more power over Europe, but by contributing more to the citizens.
Second – responsibility
Being authorized to be the boss is not only about giving orders, but taking the responsibility too. It’s not evident how the relation between the responsibilities of the Commission and the states are (will be?) set. This uncertainity makes us raise some questions.
a) Why does the Commission think that it will surely foresee a newer crisis, if it failed to observe the latest one? To put it in other words, will the new system of surveillance help the Union getting out of the deep water? These institutions, which have been set up lately, does not represent guarantees, these are much like experiment. We don’t know how they will work, and it’s not sure at all that they will function as they are meant to do.
b) What will be the means of forcing member states to keep those medium-term budgetary strategies that are presented to the EC? In theory, Brussels should have known the financial state of Greece, too.
c) If the newest Europe fails too, who will take the responsibility? After a newer crash, if occurs, will the Union be called to account for not seeing it, the member states for not being honest, or both? Without clear responsibility and power to force member states to keep the presented budgets, the Commission is not primus inter pares.
In this case Brussels wants more instead of wanting less, but receiving more. As for the member states, they wrote again a blank check to the EU, hoping that they can cash it later, but the result is pretty much uncertain.
Third – economy
A crased and failed financial system shouldn’t stay intact. Negotiations are still on, but neither the Union, nor the member states seem to consider any change. Apart from further reinforcements nothing has happened.
What makes things worse is that there seems to be no intention to think over the European economy. Huge amounts of money have been spent on bank bail-outs, and much less on the citizens, who, especially in Eastern Europe, make ends meet always harder, more and more of them have to live below poverty line.
Helping troubled banks (if they are really troubled) is not a problem. Not helping citizens, that’s too bad. The newest flagship of the European economy, the European Semester is not answering these concerns. Austerity measures have never resulted in flourishing societies and social inclusion. The meainstream in Brussels is still for taking more from citizens, instead of investing in them.
What to do?
There seems to be a communicational breakdown between Brussels, the member states and even the citizens. The EU still doesn’t understand that before acting it needs social (and not only political) support. The Union is a sui generis entity in the international space, so it needs sui generis solutions. In this case it’s a special mixture of political and social legitimacy. The Union still lacks the latter one. In this case eurocrats have to change and not the citizens.
Joseph E. Stiglitz, world famous economist has written recently:
A sense of fair play requires voice, which can be achieved only through public dialogue. Everyone stresses the rule of law, but it matters a great deal what kind of rule of law is established. For laws can be used to ensure equality of opportunity and tolerance, or they can be used to maintain inequalities and the power of elites.
Without public dialogue there will be a rule of law, which maintains inequalities in the economy. And without fair economy the newest flagship is already sunk.Author : David Korosi