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Schriftelijke vraag nr. 6-2276

van Peter Van Rompuy (CD&V) d.d. 24 januari 2019

aan de vice-eersteminister en minister van FinanciŰn, belast met Bestrijding van de fiscale fraude, en Minister van Ontwikkelingssamenwerking

Verdrag betreffende stabiliteit, co÷rdinatie en governance in de Economische en Monetaire Unie (EMU) - Tekortkomingen in de omzetting in Belgische wetgeving - Verslag van de Europese Commissie - Antwoord van BelgiŰ

Stabiliteitspact
Economische en Monetaire Unie
nationale uitvoeringsmaatregel
Verdrag inzake stabiliteit, co÷rdinatie en bestuur

Chronologie

24/1/2019 Verzending vraag (Einde van de antwoordtermijn: 28/2/2019 )
4/3/2019 Antwoord

Herindiening van : schriftelijke vraag 6-1592

Vraag nr. 6-2276 d.d. 24 januari 2019 : (Vraag gesteld in het Nederlands)

Motivering van het transversale karakter van de schriftelijke vraag : het Verdrag betreffende stabiliteit, co÷rdinatie en governance in de Economische en Monetaire Unie (EMU) is eveneens (onrechtstreeks) van toepassing op de Gewesten.

Op basis van het rapport van de Europese Commissie van 22 februari 2017 overeenkomstig artikel 8 van het Verdrag betreffende stabiliteit, co÷rdinatie en governance in de EMU (Europese Commissie, C(2017) 1201 final, Annex 2) kan gesteld worden dat BelgiŰ zich in de brieven van 16 juli 2016 en 17 oktober 2016 engageerde om de tekortkomingen in de omzetting naar Belgische wetgeving te verhelpen.

Daarom volgende vraag :

Kan de geachte minister de geciteerde brieven van 16 juli 2016 en 17 oktober 2016 bezorgená?

Antwoord ontvangen op 4 maart 2019 :

In bijlage vindt u de twee brieven.

Voorts verwijs ik naar het document van de Europese Commissie van 18 januari 2019 dat aan het Economisch en Financieel Comité werd voorgelegd over de ‘Supplementary update on provisions adopted by selected Contracting Parties to comply with article 3(2) of the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union’. In dit document concludeert de Commissie dat de bijkomende maatregelen die ondertussen door België werden genomen, op voldoende wijze de problemen aanpakken waarnaar verwezen wordt in het rapport van de Europese Commissie van 22 februari 2017 (het gedeelte van dit document over België bevindt zich in bijlage).

BIJLAGE :

DEVELOPMENTS IN THE TSCG CONTRACTING PARTIES CONCERNED SINCE THE FEBRUARY 2017 COMMISSION REPORT

The February 2017 report identified for five Contracting Parties the need to take further action. The additional measures taken by Belgium, Greece, Spain, Luxembourg and Slovenia after the release of the Commission’s report are presented hereunder, together with an assessment as to whether those measures address satisfactorily the outstanding issues.  

BELGIUM

Background

In its February 2017 report, the Commission noted that the Belgian monitoring institution, namely the “Public sector borrowing requirement” section of the High Council of Finance (HCF-PB), was grounded in law (the 2006 Royal Decree and the 2013 Cooperation Agreement) and had a mandate consistent with the tasks prescribed by the Fiscal Compact and the common principles. However, it found the HCF-PB’s legal framework to be incomplete in terms of safeguards for its functional autonomy, adequate resourcing and capacity to communicate freely. Moreover, the 'comply-or-explain' principle was transposed only partially as the relevant national provision covered exclusively the identification of a significant deviation. Finally, access to information was grounded in provisions only with reference to the information HCF-PB needed to assess the progress of the correction.

On those grounds, the Commission report concluded overall that “the national provisions adopted by Belgium are compliant with the requirements set in Article 3(2) of the TSCG and in the common principles in light of the clarifications provided by the national authorities on the activation and substance of the correction mechanism and subject to the adoption of the amendments announced by the national authorities on the functional autonomy of the monitoring institution and applying the comply-or-explain principle.”

Recent developments

In September 2018[1], the Belgian authorities informed the Commission that a new Royal Decree on the High Council of Finance had been adopted on 23 May 2018, abrogating the 2016 Royal Decree. The newly adopted decree is without prejudice to the overall mission of the HCF and the specific tasks it has to carry out via the HCF-PB with respect to the TSCG requirements, while aiming at reinforcing the independence of the HCF-PB, endowing it with appropriate resources and ensuring its capacity to communicate freely.

Specifically, the 2018 decree delineates more clearly the three independently operating sections of the HCF, including the HCF-PB. The latter is composed of 12 members (including a President), who are appointed by the Head of the State (i.e. the King) for a five-year renewable term, on the basis of their competence and experience in the economic, fiscal and financial fields. They are appointed as follows: (i) three members upon the proposal of the central bank; (ii) three members upon the proposal of the Minister of Finance and the Minister for Budget; and (iii) six members upon the proposal of the Minister of Finance, Minister for Budget and the governments of communities and regions. An additional member with a consultative role is proposed by the government of the German-speaking community.

The 2018 decree addresses the independence of the HCF-PB by stating that its members conduct their functions in complete autonomy, without instructions from other bodies, including the public authorities that proposed them as members (Article 9). In addition, the 2018 decree has extended the list of functions that are incompatible with the HCF-PB membership, which now encompasses political or high level positions in the local governments (Article 7). Furthermore, the Minister of Finance, while still the President of the HCF, is no longer a member of the HCF-PB (Article 5) and the HCF-PB President is now selected from among the members nominated by the central bank, with the agreement of the budget and finance ministers of the regional and community governments. Differently from the past, the President is now the sole authority in charge of the organisation and the activities of the HCF-PB (Article 8).

As regards its tasks, besides those strictly related to the Fiscal Compact (as framed in the 2013 Cooperation Agreement), the HCF-PB is mandated with providing technical support and advice to the Ministers of Finance and Budget but also, as established in the 2018 decree, to the regional and local governments (Article 2). As to its capacity to communicate, Article 9 establishes that the HCF-PB has the right to engage in any type of public communication, in a fully independent way, without any impediment or censoring. To address the concerns regarding staffing and resources, the new decree also provides for the creation of a secretariat composed of 10 members, coming from all layers of the public administration and which are designated jointly by the Ministers of Finance and Budget subject to the assent of HCF-PB President (Article 12). The secretariat is under the exclusive authority of the HCF-PB President. Finally, the functioning costs of the HCF-PB and its secretariat are financed by budgetary allocation explicitly inserted in the budget law.

Concerning access to information, a protocol was signed in September 2018 between the Institute of National Accounts and the HCF-PB, which formally establishes the obligation of the former to provide relevant information to the latter and lays down the applicable procedure. The protocol is published on the HCF website[2].

Finally, with a view to guaranteeing full respect and adherence to the 'comply-or-explain' principle throughout the national budgetary process, the Belgian authorities have formally committed that the Belgian legal framework would be consistently applied in line with the 'comply-or-explain' principle as laid down in the Commission's Communication on common principles for national fiscal correction mechanisms[3]

Assessment

In the light of the information provided by the Belgian authorities, the additional measures taken by Belgium address satisfactorily the outstanding issues identified in the Commission’s February 2017 report presented under Article 8 TSCG.


[1] Letter of the Belgian authorities of 27 September 2018.

[2] https://www.conseilsuperieurdesfinances.be/sites/default/files/public/publications/2018_sla_csf_icn.pdf 

[3] Letter of the Belgian authorities of 27 September 2018.