Belgium

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 Belgium 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.

Prior to the March 24/25 European Council meeting, a parliamentary debate was scheduled, led by the Parliamentary Committee for Advice on European Affairs, joined by the Committee for Social Affairs and the Committee for Financial and Budgetary Affairs.[1] Severe criticisms arose, concerning the lack of transparency of the ECOFIN meetings, positions adopted by the government without a specific mandate from parliament, and the concern for the budgetary prerogative of the national parliament.[2]

After the European Council meeting, a debriefing was held before the same committees, on April 5th, 2011. One of the main concerns with respect to the Euro Plus Pact related to the budget of regional and local governments, and the instruments to control deficits at the subnational level.[3] The lack of social protection and measures was also lamented.[4] At that same meeting, the national reform programme of 2010 and regional memoranda were put forward.[5]

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

None.

[1] The Parliamentary Committee for Advice on European Affairs is composed of 10 Members of the House, 10 Members of the Senate, and all Belgian Members of the European Parliament. The other two standing committees were in joined session, i.e. members of both House and Senate were present.

[2] Parl. Doc. House, 2010-11, nr. 53K1365/1, p. 7: « plusieurs membres ont fait part de leur vive inquiétude de voir les instances européennes intervenir d’une manière de plus en plus prégnante dans

les compétences dévolues aux parlement nationaux, en particulier dans le domaine de leurs prérogatives budgétaires. La rapidité des processus décisionnels, leur manque de transparence, notamment au sein du Conseil ECOFIN, ont été critiqués, de même qu’un manque de concertation préalable suffisante. Ils ont également exprimé certaines critiques au regard des engagements que le gouvernement était en train de prendre vis-à-vis des autorités européennes au nom de la Belgique, sans que le Parlement se soit encore prononcé en pleine connaissance de cause sur la base d’un mandat explicite précis. » http://www.dekamer.be/FLWB/PDF/53/1536/53K1536001.pdf

[3] Parl. Doc. House, 2010-11, nr. 53K1365/1, p. 27. http://www.dekamer.be/FLWB/PDF/53/1365/53K1365001.pdf

[4] Parl. Doc. House, 2010-11, nr. 53K1365/1, p. 23. http://www.dekamer.be/FLWB/PDF/53/1365/53K1365001.pdf

[5] Parl. Doc. House, 2010-11, nr. 53K1365/1, p. 69-121. http://www.dekamer.be/FLWB/PDF/53/1365/53K1365001.pdf