On November 30, Secretary General of European Parliament Klaus Welle participated in a luncheon discussion at the German Marshall Fund in Washington, DC. The event, moderated by Senior Director of Policy Programs Thomas Kleine Brockhoff, focused on the evolution of EU policymaking after the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty. Welle also addressed the Euro’s stability in light of recent financial crises and the impact of European Parliament on international trade agreements. Accompanied by members of European Parliament’s Washington-based staff, Welle emphasized the importance of transatlantic cooperation as the U.S. Congress and EU Parliament increasingly experience legislative and regulatory convergence. His grounded and good humored discussion led to an active question and answer session addressing a host of policy areas.
A veteran European policymaker, Welle provided a comprehensive perspective on the challenges and opportunities facing Parliament after Lisbon’s implementation. He emphasized the evolutionary nature of institutional practices, suggesting the treaty set many new standards, while others will be set in practice over the course of the next few years. Welle discussed Parliament’s rejection of the SWIFT Treaty on bank data sharing as an example of Parliament’s new role approving treaties and an expansion of its international character. These explicit changes were explained to be accompanied by a competitive dynamic between the institutions. The European Council’s relationship to Parliament, Welle explained, is exemplary of the functional evolution of policymaking bodies. He noted the European Council’s importance to the EU but emphasized its inability to replace legislative process in Parliament.
Welle also addressed the continuing financial crisis’ effect on the Euro. He recognized the pressure ailing economies like Greece, Ireland, and Spain are putting on the Eurozone but remained confident in the Euro, saying, “I would not underestimate the political will behind the Euro in the member countries.” Elaborating on the EU’s efforts to assist foundering economies, Welle underscored the different debt issues confronting European regulators. Where Greece was a case of too much public debt, Ireland is experiencing a great deal of private debt becoming public. He stressed the need for reflection on these differences as state debt regulation only a partial solution.