Thursday 16 August 2012

Excessive Deficit Regulation

The Excessive Deficit Regulation (PDF) builds on the six-pack legislation’s provisions on budgetary surveillance.

The Regulation

The Regulation would establish a common budgetary timeline (mid-term budgetary framework to be published by 15th April, draft budget laws published by 15th October, and budget laws should be adopted by 31st December), and require the creation of national independent fiscal councils for monitoring the implementation of national fiscal rules for achieving budget balance.

For budget monitoring, the relevant information is (simplified list taken from Article 5(3)):

(a)    The targeted budget balance as a percentage of GDP;
(b)   The projections at unchanged policies for expenditure and revenue as a percentage of GDP;
(c)    Targeted expenditure and revenue as a percentage of GDP;
(d)   A detailed description of measures to be included in the budget to bridge the gap between the targets in (b) and (c);
(e)   The main assumptions about expected economic developments and important economic variables, based on independent macroeconomic growth forecast;
(f)     Any additional indications on how recommendations to the Member State will be met.
The Commission will give its opinion on the draft budgetary laws by 30th November, and national parliaments can require a Commission presentation to them. There will also be an overall assessment for the Eurozone.

When a Member State is under the excessive deficit procedure it falls under closer budgetary scrutiny, with regular reports to the Commission on the execution of the budget on the general government and sub-sector levels. Under Article 7(6), the Commission can require a Member State to carry out and report on a comprehensive independent audit of its accounts and provide additional information on its progress on the excessive deficit. The Regulation would increase the Commission’s power in monitoring Member States’ budgets and involvement in budgets where there is an excessive deficit procedure in force.

European Parliament Report.

For the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, Elisa Ferreira (S&D) drafted the report for the Parliament’s response at first reading. The report was endorsed in Committee by 18 to 12, with 14 abstentions, and in plenary by 501 to 138, with 36 abstentions. The report was endorsed by an EPP-S&D-ALDE-Greens/EFA coalition.

The report submits 81 amendments that will be the Parliament’s starting negotiating point with the Member States in the Council. The main changes are:

- Greater reference to employment and social partners to be added to the recitals;

- It would add (non-binding) calls for a Financial Transaction Tax and a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base to the recitals;

- Specifies that the Regulation does not affect wage formation or collective agreements;

- Would define “particularly serious not compliance” as a deviation of 1% GDP in one year or an average of 0.5% GDP each year for two years from the budgetary objective if there are no exceptional circumstances;

- Gives some more flexibility with the deadlines;

- “Expected economic developments” will include an estimation of the assumed macroeconomic multiplier effects (so stimulus packages can be taken into account);

- Specifies that the Commission’s power to specify content of draft budgetary plans is through delegated acts, which brings it under closer control and scrutiny by the Parliament and Council;

- The European Parliament can also require that the Commission present its budgetary plans to it and the relevant EP Committee, as well as the Eurogroup, will discuss the Commission’s opinion on national budgetary plans and the budgetary situation in the Eurozone. The Commission may update its opinions in the light of these discussions;

- Overall assessments of the Eurozone shall also include stress tests that provide “an indication of the risks to public finance sustainability in the event of adverse financial or budgetary developments.”

- The requirement of Member states to report debt issuance to the Commission and the Eurogroup will be included;

- The Commission will be required to present a report on a roadmap towards Eurozone Stability bonds and present a proposal for a Eurozone sustainable growth instrument aiming at mobilising approx. 1% GDP per year over 10 years, including an increase in EIB capital and project bonds, to be invested in European infrastructure, science and technology;

- Eurozone Member States may agree an annual coordinated public debt issuance framework (this is for a future proposal, however);

- A European Redemption Fund shall be established based on joint liability and strict conditionality for 25 years (after which it will be wound up), covering debt over 60% GDP of non-assistance programme Eurozone Member States on a roll-over period of 5 years. There will also be a fiscal consolidation strategy and a structural reform agenda. The ERF’s day-to-day management will be under the Commission following a regulation by the EP and Council;

- Under the excessive deficit procedure, the relevant Member State will present its national plan, including areas of European Added Value, such as EIB credit lines;

- The Commission shall present a report, and possibly a proposal, on a European Debt Authority to the Parliament and Council that would be responsible for managing and coordinating all issues relating to the annual debt issuance plan of the Member States.


The report is clearly very ambitious, particularly inserting the creation of a European Redemption Fund, likely as a way of aiding Italy and Spain. The Parliament is keen to introduce a greater scope of variables to the process and to highlight the importance of social partners, respect for wages and collective agreements, and European solidarity through national plans indicating EIB and other economic help. It’s also clear that the Parliament is using this opportunity to push its ideas on to the agenda and to overcome being overshadowed by the European Council summitry that’s dominated the past 2-3 years of crisis. The Parliament has also tried to introduce more democratic and parliamentary controls over the Commission’s power, especially in ensuring the oversight of its delegated powers by the Parliament and Council. By reserving a right to demand Commission reports and the right of debate, the Parliament tried to ensure that all these plans are open to political debate and discussion.

Still, the need for the Parliament to cram requirements for further reports and debates on further aspects of Eurozone reform highlights how one-dimensional the current “fiscal union” is. The more radical elements are sure to be thrown out or heavily watered down – I don’t expect to see the redemption fund survive negotiations with the Council – but there are some grounded ideas for improving the content of reporting, planning, and of improving democratic oversight.

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