Policy-Makers Stymied by EU Power Vacuum
Marshall, From Andrew, The Independent (London, England)
It is a Euro-sceptic's dream: the European Commission, power house of EU policy-making, has come to a dead halt. The EU's executive bureaucracy is caught between the old and the new, with the former president, Jacques Delors, gone, but Jacques San ter, his replacement, awaiting parliamentary confirmation for his new Commission.
Hearings in front of the new European Parliament began yesterday, and are set to continue until next week. A vote will not come until Parliament meets in Strasbourg on 18 January.
In the interim, the legal advice that the Commission has received suggests it should not do anything of very much substance. The situation is apparently without precedent, so until the new Commission is confirmed, the present members seem powerless. Tho u gh they met yesterday as usual in Brussels, Commission spokesmen confirmed they have fallen into a legal hole - caused because Parliament wanted to ensure representatives of the countries which joined the EU on 1 January (Sweden, Austria and Finland) had a chance to grill the new executive.
Yesterday's Commission meeting included the three Commissioners from the new member states, as well as other new entrants - one of whom is Neil Kinnock, former Labour Party leader, who will supervise transport issues.
The Commission immediately hit a road-block when it tried to agree rules to protect European television programme producers through import quotas. The plan was blocked by Sir Leon Brittan, trade commissioner, who said the rules were not well thought out.Sir Leon, an arch free trader, is thought to want to block the plan until the new Commission is in place, believing Mr Santer will want to water it down.
The Parliament hearings are an innovation, introduced as a result of the Maastricht treaty which gave it the right to give its assent (or not) to the Commission. This new check on the unelected body has been taken seriously by Parliament, which gained some significant powers in the treaty and believes it is gaining in influence.
Last year, in a non-binding vote, it came close to rejecting the new President, a nasty shock that will not be easily forgotten. Parliament cannot reject or accept individual Commission members but, …
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Publication information: Article title: Policy-Makers Stymied by EU Power Vacuum. Contributors: Marshall, From Andrew - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: January 5, 1996. Page number: 15. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.