Interview with MEP Catherine Trautmann
“Contempt of Parliament is contempt of citizens”
By Pierre Lemoine in Strasbourg | Thursday 14 June 2012
The institutional declaration of war over the ministerial reform of Schengen – which is marginalising the European Parliament (seeEuropolitics
4442) - had to happen sooner or later because of the accumulating tensions. MEP Catherine Trautmann (S&D, France) sheds some light on the situation.
You have said that Parliament has been “stripped of its prerogatives”. Since when has this been the case?
Since the Lisbon Treaty, the accepted idea seems to be that the member states had made concessions while the prerogatives of the Council, the Commission and the Parliament had been reflected upon and decided on together in an institutional balance that was to allow for a better functioning of the Union. Instead of choosing that path, the member states – two, essentially – led the Union into a slightly perverse mechanism, in other words the Merkel-Sarkozy directorate. They chose the intergovernmental path rather than the correct implementation of the Lisbon Treaty. Whether we’re talking about first free trade agreements where the Council started to play on the dates, or attempts to reach a compromise between Council and Parliament on first reading without going to second reading – or even a report being adopted without any vote at all on first reading – it is clear that the debate period is no longer being respected, nor the investigation period, and that, in the end, the member states, using the pretext of the crisis, want to reclaim the reins to serve their national interest. What takes time, clearly, is the need to define the common interest of the Union. Not only are we being denied the respect – which we are entitled to – of our prerogatives, of our competences, but this hijacking of the time needed for the institutional body of democratic control to fully exercise control leads to contempt of the citizens. This is detrimental to the legitimacy of decisions, it harms the understanding of the citizen.
How are you going to react?
I have already witnessed moments of strong tension between a Presidency and the Parliament, but this is the first time that the presidents of several groups say in a session that they intend to refer to the Court of Justice to settle the issue caused by the member states unanimously stripping Parliament of its competence to evaluate policies linked to Schengen. At any rate, political action is needed. This schism is less marked with regard to the financial perspectives: we are being refused the possibility of working as we should – ie on legal texts since we are legislators. Instead, we go through a negotiation box that was first reserved to the member states. Here again, Parliament is protesting because it has been short-circuited. So now, on several dossiers, we are going to take up arms.