MEPs welcomed the results of last week's summit of European Union leaders as a step in the right direction, but called for the acceleration of legislative follow-up. They also called for greater clarity on what had actually been agreed at the summit, a demand prompted by announcements from the Dutch and Finnish governments that they would not agree to the use of eurozone funds for bond purchases.
To a smattering of applause, Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, laid out the main elements of last week's decisions at the start of a plenary debate in Strasbourg on Tuesday (3 July).
Joseph Daul, leader of the centre-right European People's Party group, welcomed the European Council as “coming closer to the desired solution, the political integration of Europe” than previous Councils, but regretted that there was still no roadmap towards a “political Europe”.
“Europe will not survive if it does not have fiscal and political union,” he said. Because eurozone leaders were so focused on their political survival, he said, the European Commission and the European Parliament had to work together to prepare such a union. He asked José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, and Van Rompuy to speed up their work on implementing the European Council's agreements. “From August onwards we have to talk about the actual proposals,” he said.
Hannes Swoboda, an Austrian MEP who leads the centre-left Socialists & Democrats group in the Parliament, described the summit as a “watershed for the future of Europe”. But he said that the leaders now had to seize the opportunity and that the Commission had to make proper proposals as soon as possible.
Swoboda added that François Hollande, France's president, had brought a new “democratic atmosphere” to the Council meeting, helped by Mario Monti and Mariano Rajoy, the prime ministers of Italy and Spain. “What is the point of [fiscal] reforms if there is no growth to sustain reforms? That is what Monti and Rajoy are saying,” Swoboda said. “Monti is as tough as Merkel.”
Referring to the Dutch and Finnish announcements that they oppose using eurozone funds to buy bonds, Swoboda said: “The prime ministers of the Netherlands and Finland obviously were not listening, they fell asleep at the end of the night, or maybe they just wanted to go back [home] and say something different [to their citizens].” He said of the plans for a European banking union: “We could have had it a long time ago.”
Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group, welcomed the growth package as a “necessary counterpart for tightening the budget in the EU”. He agreed with Swoboda that the plan for a single banking supervisor could have been launched two years ago, when Parliament demanded one. He stressed that it should have the power to close down banks “in any member state, without exception”.
He called for the acceleration of proposals implementing the summit's decisions. “We have successfully bought time, how much I do not know – is it days, weeks, months?” He said that there was no need to wait for an interim report from the institutions in October. “We need to use the positive spill-over to launch directly the political and economic union that we urgently need,” he said. “We have now a window of opportunity only of a few weeks, and if the Finns continue like that, it is destroyed.”
Rebecca Harms, a German Green MEP and co-chair of the Green group in Parliament, agreed with the need for speed. “Mr Barroso, September is when we've got to have the decisions ready for proper debate,” she said.
Mario Mauro, a centre-right Italian MEP, said that each member state had been “broadcasting a different result”. Turning to Van Rompuy, he said: “President of the European Council, could you tell us what you actually agreed on? I think that 500 million citizens are entitled to know.” Sylvie Goulard, a French Liberal, called on Van Rompuy to “speak on behalf of the Council and get dissenting member states to keep quiet”.