The History of the European Union: Origins of a Trans- and Supranational Polity 1950-72

By Wolfram Kaiser; Brigitte Leucht et al. | Go to book overview

10   Delegation as a political
process
The case of the inter-institutional
debate over the Budget Treaty

Ann-Christina L. Knudsen

The role of the European Parliament (EP) has changed remarkably over time, from being an international assembly with weak oversight and advisory powers, to becoming one of the more powerful elected chambers in the world today.1 The revision of the EP’s position began when in 1970 it was granted certain budgetary powers. Subsequently, in 1979 the Members of the EP (MEPs) became directly elected, and since the mid-1980s their legislative powers have gradually been strengthened. This chronology seems to be in accordance with the democratic traditions of the member-states. The trajectory for these acts of delegation to the EP, however, could not have been foretold, as I show in this chapter that examines the decade-long debate among the Community’s institutions over how and what to finally delegate in the so-called ‘Budget Treaty’ on 22 April 1970.2

Democratization, institutional architecture, and the financing of public policies are all central issues to politicians, but are also quite technical matters. The Budget Treaty connected the introduction of certain budgetary powers of the EP with a new model of financing the Community, passed by the Council in Luxembourg the day prior to the new treaty.3 The Community had originally been financed through direct member-state contributions, like other international institutions where the member-states retain full responsibility over budgetary decisions. The treaty establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) had foreseen the introduction of so-called own resources, borrowing from the terminology of financing the European Coal and Steel Community. The Commission was mandated by the EEC treaty to launch an enquiry into how a new model for establishing financial autonomy to the Community institutions could be introduced. In addition to the classical consultation procedure, the EEC treaty stipulated that after the unanimous agreement of the Council, the new financial model would need to be submitted ‘to the Member States for adoption in accordance with their respective constitutional provisions.’4 Hence, national parliaments were included in the procedure for establishing own resources, but the EEC treaty did not anticipate the budgetary empowering of the EP, although it did foresee the creation of direct elections.5 The fact that the EP was empowered with budgetary powers before it became directly elected was therefore not in accordance with the EEC treaty. Nevertheless, the Budget Treaty granted the indirectly elected EP an active role in the revised budgetary procedure, while also delimiting its powers to

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