Strasbourg’s Trial of Strength

LONDON: The withdrawal of the censure vote in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on January 14th, which would have forced the resignation of all of the members of the Council of Ministers, should not be judged simply on whether such a vote was won or lost, but mainly as a fundamental turning point in the relationship between the European Parliament and the Commission.

The threat of censure marks a vital turning point in the relationship between the Parliament and the Member States in the Council of Ministers. For no matter which way the vote went, and even with its withdrawal, the European Parliament, by flexing its muscles as it did, would still have emerged strengthened.

Ostensibly, the purpose of the Parliament’s censure motion was to sanction the Commission for what was alleged to be the maladministration of the European Union’s 1996 budget; and there were (and remain) accusations in the air of fraud and corruption. The paradox of the situation, however, is that, in political terms, the very holding of a vote of censure will be more important than whether it was successful or not.

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