Brussels tough guy - and proud of it
Rookie MEP Carl Haglund is one of the six MEPs drawing up a report on the European Parliament’s take on how to tighten economic discipline within the euro zone.
By Annamari Sipilä in Brussels
Finnish MEP Carl Haglund (Swedish People’s Party) has a clear idea of what should be done with the eurozone countries that manage their finances with neglect.
“The ones who do not want to adhere to the rules can revert back to their national currencies”, Haglund says bluntly.
As it happens, Haglund’s opinion matters.
He is one of the six MEPs that are preparing the European Parliament’s stand with regard to the EU Commission’s fresh law package on how to improve economic discipline within the eurozone and encourage prudent fiscal policy-making.
The task is not insignificant. The legislative reform is one of the most followed within the Union for the simple reason that it will place strict constraints on the euro-nations’ housekeeping practices.
So, how did Haglund get the job? After all, he is only a substitute member in the EU Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, and he has only been in the Parliament itself since 2009. He was elected on a Swedish People's Party ticket and replaced the outgoing Henrik Lax.
“I pushed myself forward”, the 31-year-old rookie MEP explains with a smile.
“Here in the European Parliament nothing is offered up on a silver platter.”
Haglund predicts that the upcoming negotiations will be difficult.
There are manifold views within the European Parliament as to what kind of financial governance regulations would suit the Union best.
The total number of MEPs is more than 700 and the spectrum of political opinions is therefore diverse, to say the very least.
There is no consensus even on when a country’s economic state could be said to be poor.
And not everybody agrees that member-states should keep their deficits to less than 3 per cent of GDP and their total public debt to less than 60% of GDP, either.
Haglund defines his own views on the matter as tough.
“The European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn’s proposal is good enough to be going on with, but it could be even tighter.”
Rehn’s proposal consists of six regulatory legislative proposals and therefore the number of MEPs reporting on the package is also six.
Haglund belongs to the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), which is the third-largest political grouping in the European Parliament.
ALDE and the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), the largest group in the European Parliament with 265 MEPs, each have two members reporting on the law package.
The Socialists and the conservative ECR group have one member apiece.
Haglund is working on the section of the proposal that deals with how the euro countries should rectify their possible macroeconomic imbalances in the future.
The basic idea is that the euro countries follow more closely than before for example the unit labour costs and the formation of housing market bubbles.
If a country neglected measures to rectify some imbalance, then the Commission could punish it - in an extreme case - with sanctions in the form of a fine.
The drawing up of regulations is difficult, because the practices and indicators used vary from one member-state to the next.
“This will definitely turn into a row”, Haglund says.
The six MEPs toiling over the report plan to cooperate closely, because the different segments of the law package still have to be taken as a whole.
Haglund plans to hold onto his views as robustly as possible right from the outset, so that later on he would have some wiggle-room for haggling.
“That is the kind of bazaar tradecraft politics sometimes is.”
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 4.10.2010
Previously in HS International Edition:
Differences emerging among new crop of Finnish MEPs (6.4.2010)
Alliance for Liberals and Democrats for Europe: Carl Haglund
ANNAMARI SIPILÄ / Helsingin Sanomat