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European Union

 
18/02
2011

EU: Secret report released in member state

As EU-leaders discuss pension reforms, EU-citizens are not supposed to see the arguments. A secret – but released – report shows that countries want to bend the Euro-rules.

 

When heads of state and governments met in Brussels in December they received a report on the thorny issue if privatising pension systems.
The report was referred to in the official conclusions of the meeting. But there was no link to the report, or a document number. The report is still held back by the Council administration in Brussels.
It would impede the discussions to let the content be known, the argument goes.
The Swedish government has now released the very same report (see document to the right) to this web site, making it is possible to get some insight in the matter.

 

Countries on the brink to privatise their pensions system are afraid of doing so since they might be punished by the Euro-rules governing their economic performance.
When pension assets are moved from the state to the private sector government’s deficit and debt grow.
Hence a dilemma: EU encourages privatisation in general, but privatised pension systems weaken the ability to follow the rules, known as the Stability and Growth Pact.
Two EU-countries have actually made a reverse move: Hungary, and to some extent Bulgaria, have nationalised private pension funds in order to reduce their deficit and debt.

 

A solution to this dilemma could be to bend the rules, letting a country’s deficit grow beyond the official ceiling of 3 percent of GNP, if the deficit can be excused with pensions reforms.
This is the core of the report that the Council in Brussels wants to keep secret for the public.
The reason for secrecy given to this web site:
(...) disclosure of this document which contains opinions for internal use as part of deliberations and preliminary consultations within the Council would be premature in that it could impede the proper conduct of the negotiations and compromise the conclusion of an agreement on this subject.” (See full text to the right.)

 

When documents are kept secret because they are part of ongoing deliberations they usually contain national positions, such as Germany opposes this, and Italy is in favour of that.
This is not the case here.
No national positions are identified in the report.
The only opinions mentioned are that ”a majority” consider a suggestion proposed by the Commission to be sufficient, while ”some” member states believes this is going to far, and ”others” seek assurances on the application of the proposed rules.
In plain talk there is a split on how much member states should be aloud to break the Euro-rules in order to privatize pension systems.
Controversial?
Obviously.
But sensible enough to keep the content secret to the public; the peoples who’s future pensions the discussion is about?

 

The Swedish government found no reason not to give access to the document.
The Council in Brussels did.
After a first rejection Wobbing Europe has made a confirmatory application, which is a way to say that we find the rejected access badly motivated, and we ask the Council to give the matter a second thought.
In a letter from the General Secretariat of the Council we are told ”various Council bodies” are involved in our confirmatory application and that a decision will be taken at a later stage.

Staffan Dahllöf

 
 
 
 

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