Tue, Jan. 13, 2004

European Commission Sues Council of Ministers

SWM - Washington.   For the first time in history, the EU Commission has sued the EU Council of Ministers. The European Court of Justice will have to decide whether the secretaries of the various member treasuries were authorized to suspended the sanctions mechanism of the EU's stability and growth pact in November 2003.

Under the terms of the pact, an EU member states participating in the EURO currency regime may not exceed three percent of its GDP in its budget deficit. Both Germany and France violated that term for the second time in fiscal 2002. The Commission investigated and sanctioned the violators but itssanction was then suspended. The Commsission said that legal certainty is needed in that issue.

The suspension had caused concern among smaller EU members that European law could become meaningless as applied to the larger members. By contrast, some member states noted through their officials that drawn-out litigation would poison upcoming tasks such as the EU expansion. After the disappointing end, last December, of plans for an EU constitution the suit is considered an additional hurdle for European unification.

The Commission asked the court to "fast-track" the case toward a decision within six months. This would be the third "fast-track" hearing in the court's history. Normally, these suits take two years or longer.

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