As reported here this week, the first round of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations has been underway in Washington, D.C. with European Union and American officials, along with a select group of business, banking, environmental, and union “stakeholders.” President Obama has placed this planned political and economic merger of the EU and the United States on a fast track, with the intention of building support for it over the coming months so that it can be rammed through Congress next year.
Despite constant claims of commitment to “transparency,” “openness” and “democracy,” the TTIP talks have been conducted under a cloak of secrecy, with the negotiations closed to the press and the negotiated texts and documents unavailable to the public. This is standard operating procedure in the EU (see here, here, and here) which the United States would mirror more and more, should the TTIP merger succeed.
On Thursday, July 11, the fourth day of the TTIP talks in Washington, a top EU official made some interesting admissions during a speech in Europe. Addressing Lithuanian legislators in Vilnius, the nation’s capital, European Commission Vice-President for Inter-institutional Affairs and Administration Maros Sefcovic (shown above) explained the role of national parliaments under the new regime instituted by the so-called economic reforms known as the “Six-Pack” (2011) and the “Two-Pack” (2012). According to Sefcovic, due to the economic crisis, these reforms required an increased “pooling of sovereignty” by the member states of the eurozone. This means, among other things, that their national budgets will be scrutinized and approved or disapproved by the troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It is the job of national parliaments, Sefcovic said, in essence, to rubberstamp the decisions of the troika, thereby providing a façade of democratic legitimacy. And, ah yes, the parliaments are also supposed to organize “Europe days” confabs to discuss and debate the wonderful work and vision of the European Commission. Sefcovic told the parliament members that even more changes are headed their way:
The Euro currency is stable again. But the crisis has not gone away completely, of course, and we have to continue to follow these new rules if we want to ensure that it does not return.
And there are still more changes to be expected en route. For example, we will soon be entering a new phase of relations between national governments, national parliaments and the European Commission, when the first national budget proposals are scrutinised at the European level, as agreed as part of the 'two-pack'.
This is a new procedure, and one born out of necessity — one of the key causes of the crisis was irresponsible budgeting in some Member States that had a knock-on effect in other countries. European level scrutiny of national budgets is designed to stop this from happening again.
This is an excellent example of just how far we have come, how far we have been willing to find new ways to do what needs to be done. Pooling sovereignty in this way would have been unthinkable a few years ago, and yet now it is likely to be the model for future development of the economic and monetary union.
That last sentence, especially, deserves a repeat: “Pooling sovereignty in this way would have been unthinkable a few years ago, and yet now it is likely to be the model.”
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Photo: Maros Sefcovic