This week in Europe: 25-28 February

European Liberals and Democrats to oppose the 2014-20 budget proposal but accept the global amount

In a statement on Wednesday, the ALDE Group in the European Parliament adopted its position ahead of negotiations on the new EU budget. Guy Verhofstadt, its Group Leader, called for a transfer of spending from farming and cohesion policy towards research, innovation, infrastructure and competitiveness, and condemned the EU’s growing deficit;

Nor can we countenance the creation of excessive deficits, building up outstanding commitments year on year to a potential debt of €300 billion by 2020, if all commitments are taken up.

He also called for a binding revision and re-approval process midway through the 2014-2020 budget period to allow a reassessment of the state of the finances and of priorities;

This also is crucial from the point of view of democratic legitimacy, enabling the next European Parliament to have a say in deciding the Union’s budgetary priorities.

ALDE have produced a position paperoutlining their conditions for agreeing the budget.

So that’s what Nick Clegg was doing in Amsterdam on Monday!

A meeting of European Liberal Democrat leaders in government and European Commissioners, hosted by Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte (VVD), issued a joint statement calling upon the European Commission and member states to ensure full implementation of new economic governance rules and to redouble their efforts to implement long overdue structural reforms.

Amongst their other key priorities are;

  • faster progress in deepening and widening the single market, especially in the services, energy and digital sectors
  • conclusion of trade deals with Canada, India, Japan and the United States
  • lifting regulatory burdens on small businesses
  • the establishment of an independent European Office for Budget Responsibility to reinforce EU budgetary control and cost-effectiveness
  • reforms to devolve powers back to the member states (and beyond)

The full statement can be found here.

The time is right for greater transparency in global banking

Also on Monday, Sharon Bowles MEP, Chair of the powerful Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, was co-signatory of a letter to EU Finance Ministers urging them to pass new rules on transparency and disclosure rules for banks;

Banks play such a central role in our society and in funding our economy. Country-by country reporting for these institutions would therefore be a symbolic disclosure that would set the path towards greater transparency in other sectors, currently under discussion.

What we are asking for is actually quite modest. If finance ministers can’t sign up to it, then one has to ask why not. Is it because there is something to hide? In which case there is even more reason for disclosure.

* Mark Valladares is a member of the ALDE Party’s Financial Advisory Committee and wonders whether a sleeper from Munich to Zagreb would be better than one from Munich…

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