European Parliament President Martin Schulz opened the European Parliamentary Week Monday January 20: "This is a strong signal that both sides are committed to enhancing our cooperation and democratic control of the European Semester".
In the framework of the European Semester, specific recommendations with sometimes far-reaching implications for countries' taxes, labour market, health care, social security systems and pensions are made by the Commission and then endorsed by the EU government representatives in the Council of Ministers. The Member States are expected to implement these recommendations through their national budgets.
President Schulz chaired the opening session together with Greek Parliament President, Mr Vangelis Meimarakis, who underlined that when policy decisions are made in the EU "it's not just to make things effective but to get acceptance". Greece currently holds the six-month rotating EU Council presidency.
Commission and European Council presidents, José Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy also took the floor on Monday.
On Tuesday, the democratic legitimacyand consequences of Troika decisions in countries that asked for EU financial aid were discussed by participants. The "Troika", meaning representatives of the Commission, the ECB and the IMF, often demand deep cuts in national budgets and painful reforms as a precondition for financial help. The two MEPs heading Parliament's inquiry into Troika policies, Austrian Christian-Democrat (EPP) Othmar Karas and French Socialist Liem Hoang Ngoc, said that significant improvement in the functioning of the Troika is necessary if the EU is to enhance the democratic legitimacy of these decisions.
Others however disputed this, with German lower house president, Norbert Lammert arguing that it was incorrect to speak of a lack of democratic legitimacy as the adjustment programmes prescribed were actually debated and approved by the parliaments of Ireland, Portugal, Cyprus and Greece respectively.
The conference concluded on Wednesday. EP Vice-President Karas and Greek Parliament Vice-President Ioannis Tragakis said that parliaments needed to strengthen their cooperation but Mr Karas also stressed that this would be meaningless if the governments did not improve their implementation of the reform recommendations adopted in the framework of the European Semester.
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