Austria

VI - Euro Plus Pact

On March 11, 2011 the Heads of State or Government of the Eurozone endorsed the Pact for the Euro. At the 24/25 March 2011 European Council, the same Heads of State or Government agreed on the Euro Plus Pact and were joined – hence the ‘Plus’ – by six others: Bulgaria, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania (leaving only the UK, Czech Republic, Sweden and Hungary out).    
The objective of the pact is to foster competitiveness, foster employment, contribute to the sustainability of public finances and reinforce financial stability. In the Euro-Plus-Pact the Heads of State or Government have entered into commitments on a number of policy areas, in which member states are competent.          
(
http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/ec/120296.pdf)

Negotiation
VI.1
What political/legal difficulties
did Austria encounter in the negotiation of the Euro-Plus-Pact, in particular in relation to the implications of the Pact for (budgetary) sovereignty, constitutional law, socio-economic fundamental rights, and the budgetary process.

Besides legislation, the control of the executive (administration) is the second major task of the parliament (Art. 52 B-VG). One form of this control is the so-called “urgent request” (Art. 52 (1) B-VG) that can be made if certain conditions are met, for example when at least five members of parliament make it (Art. 93 Parliamentary Law – Geschäftsordnung des Natioanlrats)[1]. An “urgent request” is debated within the same session of the National Council within which it is made. For the Euro-Plus-Pact, a request was made by six members the National Council that belong to the BZÖ and it regarded the decisions made at the European Council on March 24 and 25, 2011, inter alia about the Euro-Plus-Pact. [2]  In the request, the major criticism was that the Federal Chancellor had made decisions without discussing them in the National Council in advance.

As far as the content of the Euro-Plus-Pact is concerned, the major criticism articulated in the request was the question of wages and the fear of loan-dumping. The parliamentary member Blucher, who made the oral reasoning of the request in front of the National Council[3], argued that the Euro-Plus-Pact lead to common wage- and fiscal policy and would be a first level of a central European government. “Brussels” would decide on minimum wages for example. The Chancellor answered that the Euro-Plus-Pact was important because it ensured competitiveness and took the focus away of the two well know criteria of debt and deficit. He however specified that no loan negotiations would take place in Brussels, that the social partners’ (traditionally very strong) role in wage determination would not change and that collective bargaining will take place in Austria and nowhere else. However, the urgent request did not lead to any decision or new legislation.

Miscellaneous
VI.2
What other information is relevant with regard to Austria and the Euro-Plus-Pact?

Since 2011, the measures taken in order to achieve the objectives of the Euro-Plus-Pact have been integrated into the overall Austrian National Reform Programs for the achievement of the European Agenda 2020. The Austrian National Reform Programs are coordinated by the Office of the Federal Chancellor (executive branch) but involve institutions on all levels (federal and province), social partners and NGOs.[4]

[1]              Öhlinger, Verfassungsrecht, 2009, p. 213.

[2]              Urgent Request“ in the National Council Plenary Session, No. 99, XXIV Legislative Period, March 30, 2011, http://www.parlament.gv.at/PAKT/VHG/XXIV/NRSITZ/NRSITZ_00099/fname_214992.pdf, on pp. 130-137; oral reasoning of the request on pp. 137-142; response of the Federal Chancellor Faymann on pp. 143-144; general discussion on pp. 149-185; Summery of the Plenary Session from March 30, 2011in Press release at http://www.parlament.gv.at/PAKT/PR/JAHR_2011/PK0311/.

[3]              Stenographic Protocol No. 99 (see section IV, note 16), pp. 137-142.

[4]              National Reform Program 2011, at http://www.bka.gv.at/DocView.axd?CobId=43425, pp. 3-4 and Euro-Plus-Pact measures are separately listed in its Annex II at http://www.bka.gv.at/DocView.axd?CobId=43427; National Reform Program 2012 at http://www.bka.gv.at/DocView.axd?CobId=47619, pp. 15-16 with special focus on youth unemployment; National Reform Program 2013 http://www.bka.gv.at/DocView.axd?CobId=51122, Euro-Plus-Pact commitments are listed on p. 18 in Annex II at http://www.bka.gv.at/DocView.axd?CobId=51124