Row over budget review plan dominates ministers’ meeting
By Sarah Collins | Tuesday 18 May 2010
A row over EU interference in national budgets escalated at an 18 May meeting of EU finance ministers. The debate reached epic proportions last week when France, Germany, Ireland, the UK and Sweden came down against a 12 May European Commission proposal to force EU member states to submit budget outlines to their peers before the budgets proper are approved by national parliaments. The EU’s Economic Affairs Commissioner, Olli Rehn, insisted that the executive would not be prying into detailed spending plans. «There is some shadow boxing here,» he told reporters. «We have not proposed that we want to dwell into the budget lines of member states line by line. We don’t have any intention or the resources for that.»
The UK’s new Conservative Chancellor, George Osborne, said there was «no way» the EU would get a chance to see his budget before it is approved by the lower house of parliament. «I was clear that the national parliament must absolutely be paramount in the budget reading process,» he said. «That was echoed around the table - I dont think a contrary view was expressed.»
The Commission’s intention is to try to bring a more «European dimension» to spending plans, and will come forward with specific proposals for the eurozone that allow peer review of budgets and warnings for persistent overspenders. Rehn said, «If a country is completely out of step with the economic and fiscal policy stance of the euro area then the Eurogroup can make recommendations and we can expect that the country takes corrective action».
The proposal says, “in full respect of the prerogatives of national parliaments, the early peer review would provide guidance for the preparation of the national budgets in the following year”.