[A-List] EU internal struggles
Michael.Keaney at mbs.fi
Mon Jul 22 02:10:10 MDT 2002
After recent successes for the European Commission (posts passim), here is PM-in-waiting Peter Hain now claiming the eurosceptic vote. Is there no end to this man's contortionism?
Hain warns of 'creeping federalism' in EU
By Andrew Grice, Political Editor
The Independent, 22 July 2002
The Government will call today for a new watchdog to reverse the tide of "creeping federalism" in the European Union and prevent the European Commission from grabbing more and more power.
Peter Hain, the minister for Europe, will propose a powerful new body to police the commission and rule on whether decisions should be taken by Brussels or national governments. He believes the commission has boosted its own powers and ignored the "subsidiarity" rule enshrined in the Maastricht Treaty that says decisions should be devolved where possible.
Mr Hain told The Independent: "The powers have all been going towards Brussels and away from nation states. We have no means of enforcing subsidiarity. It's like passing a law and having no police force to enforce it."
Mr Hain will propose a "subsidiarity watchdog" made up of one MP from the 15 EU countries at a meeting of the convention to draw up a new EU treaty, chaired by Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the former French president. The planned body has been dubbed "OfBrussels" by Foreign Office officials, mimicking utility regulators such as Ofgas and Ofwat.
The group would meet only six times a year, but would alert its members by e-mail to any plans by the Commission or the Council of Ministers to grab more decision-making powers. The watchdog could then nip the move in the bud - a more effective check on Brussels than retrospectively handing functions back to national governments.
Mr Hain's criticism echoes attacks by Eurosceptics and reflects the Government's disappointment with the Commission's performance under its president, Romano Prodi. It is part of a campaign by British ministers to close "a democratic gap" between the EU and ordinary people to combat public hostility to the EU. Mr Hain said: "A committee of national parliamentarians, with powers to make the Commission and Council of Ministers think again when they were overlegislating, would make a real contribution to democratic legitimacy. To combat the sense the European institutions are arrogating more and more to power to themselves."
Today's proposal is also a recognition that Mr Blair has failed to win support for his plan for the policing to be carried out by a new second chamber of the European Parliament. "It didn't fly; it's a dead duck," said a source.
Some EU states want the watchdog to be the European Court of Justice or even for proposed EU laws to be referred to national parliaments.
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