Monday, February 27, 2012

Burying parliamentary scrutiny?

The picture on the left is not some random shot to illustrate excessive bureaucracy, it's literally the document setting out the details of the second Greek bailout package, which German MPs just voted on.

Not exactly bed time reading.

As expected, the Bundestag voted to approve the package, by 496 votes in favour compared with 90 against and 5 abstentions. We'll provide a breakdown of the votes alongside some further analysis in due course.

While approving the deal, many MPs were unhappy (Die Linke's Kathrin Vogler specifically raised the issue) about having had only a few days to read through, digest and then analyse a document which came to no less than 726 pages, including hugely complicated issues such as explaining different options for bond swaps, how the swap would work and the impact on Greece's debt sustainability (and therefore the risk to German taxpayers).

The agreement was only reached in the early hours of Tuesday morning, and the Bundestag's budgetary committee only looked into the details on Friday, meaning ordinary MPs only got hold of the documentation over the weekend.

This begs the question, how in the world are MPs supposed to fulfil their role scrutinising the decisions reached by governments. The bailout took eight months to organise, now MPs were expected to approve it with a weekend's notice (at least with respect to the details). Given the number of unanswered questions and heroic assumptions on which the agreement shakily rests, this is a pretty scary situation.

In fact, if this is the future of parliamentary/constitutional democracy in the eurozone, you'd forgive national parliaments for believing that is a price not worth paying for keeping the eurozone intact.


3 comments:

Fausty said...

Of course Merkozy and the bankers knew that 720 pages of jargon, legalese and economic gymnastics was an excessive read over a 2-day period. They're counting on it. That's how they operate.

If you recall, Amato deliberately made the Lisbon Treaty "unreadable".

More worrying, is that the MPs concerned have not learned the old maxim of "when in doubt, say No".

I'm reminded of Chicken Little.

I'm willing to be that the small print favours the bankers.

Rik said...

Merkel missed a 'Kanzlermehrheit' PM-majority. Which is rather relevant in Germany as earlier governments appeared to be at their end when that happened.

The closer we get to (possible) elections and the closer one of the main stream parties becomes more anti-bail out (or a new populist eg party appears (not that easy as you need >5% of the vote to get into parliament)), the more unlikely these kind of decisions will be taken again. 2/3 of the population is against and they see this as may be the most important political topic at this moment and likely the next years.

Jeremiah Methuselah said...

Fausty is right, in fact it is a standard piece of trickery they use often.

Who can possibly devote proper attention to a document so huge ? Cross-checking, referencing, checking other sources and so on ? Reading once again ? It concerns matters of the very highest importance because the penalty for failure unthinkable. Result : Let’s just rubber stamp it, no other option (except to resign and we’re not going on that flight).

This deliberate tactic is utterly wrong, indefensible.

Democracy is truly on its very last legs, if not there at the end already. This whole European con game is monstrous, so big it has overwhelmed all of us.

How do we stop it ? Will it stop itself mayhap ?