The draft has been lifted-off!

by Sérgio Maia Tavares Marques, Jurist and 
student of the Master's degree in EU Law of UMinho

At last the Comission can examine the Portuguese Draft Budgetary Plan for 2016 and put an end to the “failure-not-failure” cul-de-sac we have been following for the past couple of months. Now the Brussels economic experts will look into the official document. Based on Regulation (EU) No 473/2013 (here), the Comission has up to 45 days (that normally would be between Oct., 15th to Nov., 30th, according to articles 6 and 7) to adopt an opinion on the Member State´s plan as well as an overall assessment of the budgetary situation and prospects in the euro area as a whole (2016 version here).

For countries subject to the preventive frame of the TSCG, this opinion considers the compliance with the Country-Specific Recomendations (CSRs) and the Medium-Term Objectives (MTO).

For Member States under the corrective Excessive Deficit Procedures (EDP), the Opinion on the budget plan takes EDP´s measures for public expenditures highly into account. Portugal is about to leave the EDP, which was designed to finish in 2015 – as long as it is not extended. Other Member States on EDP are France, the UK, Spain, Ireland, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece and Slovenia, with different deadlines for correction (respective drafts here).

If the Commission is not satisfied with the plan, it shall request a revised draft to be presented within 3 weeks at the longest. A new opinion over the second version shall be adopted within the same three weeks period.

So, to make sure the Euro economic policy is coordinated, the draft budgetary plans are graded as either compliant, partially compliant, or at risk of non-compliance.

The first cul-de-sac was not a failed road for Portugal. Out of prudence and strict lawfulness, it had better not enter a second one with the budget (here) now. It might not be a road as safe. At this point it all comes down to the merit of the measures, figures and spreadsheets presented in the document, such as the 126% public debt, the 2.6% deficit, the 2.1% growth and the 1.3% (GDP) expenditure reduction.

My selection of relevant inputs on the topic:


Prime Minister Antonio Costa said Monday his executive would submit its draft budget for 2016 this Friday — three months after the deadline set up in the EU’s rulebook, Jornal de Negocios reported.


Centeno added that the financial intervention in the bank Banif at the end of 2015 is “making it difficult” for Portugal to exit the excessive deficit procedure this year — as had been forecast.

“I underline that this is the first time such a thing has happened. It is something we can understand given the complicated political situation, but it is also regrettable. We ask that the new Portuguese government sends us their plan as soon as they are in office”, Moscovici said.


Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa is confident that Brussels will approve his 2016 draft budget, which will both cut the deficit and “turn the page on austerity” to boost economic growth with higher disposable incomes.

The budget deficit will be 2.6 percent of gross domestic product this year, narrower than a previous target of 2.8 percent and less than a 3 percent shortfall in 2015, according to the plan. 

Portugal PM will roll back austerity.


Picture credits: ‘Euros’ by JWPhotography2012.

We invite you to also read  PART I and  PART II of this article.


The value of tolerance in a Union based on the rule of law


by Professor Alessandra Silveira, Editor

For several weeks following the terrorist attacks in Paris, especially against Charlie Hebdo but somewhat also after Friday, November 13th, the “Treatise on Tolerance” (Voltaire, 1763) was the top best-selling book in France. The correlation between the terrorist attacks and the free exercise of religion is a fallacy to be tackled. Yet, the success of Voltaire´s book is explained by the currentness that the subject of tolerance has achieved. Due to the same reason, a new Portuguese edition of the book was published (Relógio d’Água publishers). Well, assuming the premise that the tolerance, as Voltaire contextually described, stands for a pre-juridical status of acceptance and recognition of the other, then we wonder. What would the present significance of the value of tolerance (article 2, Treaty on the European Union) be, given that alongside pluralism and non-discrimination (among others), it establishes the common axiological grounds upon which the European integration is founded?

In his “Treatise on Tolerance”, Voltaire calls out for the mutual leniency amongst Christians of that time. More precisely, he urges the Catholic France of middle 18th century to bear or to consent the right to profess the Protestant faith. It would be an absolute absurd to intend to lead every man into thinking under a uniform manner about metaphysical issues, he argues. Inspired by the barbarism, the eight judges of Toulouse’s Parliament ordered against the protestant Jean Calas (driven by fanaticism they ruled his torture), Voltaire questions the catholic majority if it would not be possible to tolerate and assimilate Calvinists, rather in the same conditions Catholics are tolerated in London, once the more factions there is, the smaller risk there will be because multiplicity weakens them. Voltaire claims that it becomes permitted to each citizen to practice their faith solely based on their own reason. Moreover, he writes, may each one think whatever this enlightened or misguided mind dictates, as long as public order is not disturbed. It is not a crime not to believe in the mainstream religion, he says, even though the Catholic Church is the “only religion made by God”, all others being “man-made”. Hence, Voltaire´s speech warns to the “terrible consequences of a right of intolerance”. It matters, however, that “men in order to deserve tolerance must begin by not being fanatics”. Fanaticism would be a case in which “intolerance seems acceptable”.

Continue reading “The value of tolerance in a Union based on the rule of law”

A time of challenges for our Union

Find below some links to interesting opinion articles on some of the challenges that the EU is currently facing:

Europe isn’t working for this generation, via The Guardian (by Matteo Renzi the prime minister of Italy)


The economic consequences of austerity, via the New Statesmen (by Amartya Sen)


Can Germany Be Honest About Its Refugee Problems?, via the The New Work Times (by Jochen Bittner)

We also invite you to take a look at our editorial of this month here.

The principle of recognition as the cornerstone of European neighbourhood policies: waiting for Godot? Who is you, human being?


by Daniela Cardoso, Collaborating Member of CEDU

Due to the widely-acknowledged vulnerabilities that characterise the current European neighbourhood policies and external relations, the European Union has sought to encourage a renewed political dialogue. To a large extent, these new efforts are grounded on the need to face the current humanitarian and social crisis involving migrants and refugees and encountering two leading actors: Germany and Turkey.

The underlying issue is border management in order to polish and consolidate a more realistic answer to different needs. On one hand, attention must be drawn to the internal organisation of countries endowed with the geo-political profile, as the one that can be pointed out to Turkey, and their inabilities to handle the massive incoming of refugees in a solitary confinement. On the other hand, one is confronted with another issue concerning identities in transit. Giving the uncountable number of identities crossing geographical, social and cultural borders, is there any moral obligation on the part of the States to open their borders? At the core of what can be regarded as the management of political borders we encounter two chess pieces. The first thrives on cooperation and stability, sustaining that borders do have a peculiar moral meaning with its own sense of justice at the “local” level, regardless of shared views with political communities on distributive justice. The second one insists on a more plural argument placing the moral significance both in geopolitics and on people, which would be shyly seen in the possible accession of Turkey to the European Union – a topic which was recently re-placed on the table.

In short, there is one map with different languages: the tonic placed on the enlargement of the European Union and the emphasis on shared global governance.

Continue reading “The principle of recognition as the cornerstone of European neighbourhood policies: waiting for Godot? Who is you, human being?”

Editorial of January 2016


by Mariana Canotilho, Editor

‘The inclusion of the other and the fall of the Empire’

The word of the year 2015 was ‘refugee’. It is quite amazing how seven letters can actually encompass the sea of problems the European Union is facing, which will almost certainly be prevalent throughout 2016.

Aylan Kurdi died at our doorstep in the beginning of September. Before him, thousands of other migrants had already drowned in the Mediterranean, but it took the powerful image of a dead child lying on the sand for the Europeans to address the problem. Hundreds of volunteers mobilized to help their fellow humans, who ran away from war and misery. But although individuals acted, according to their possibilities, the EU institutions seem helpless, almost paralyzed. The Union struggled to reach an agreement about the reception and support to the refugees; some Member states refused the proposed quotas’ system. Hungary’s parliament voted to deploy troops to repel refugees from its border, deepening divisions with the rest of the EU. The common mechanisms negotiated have proven almost useless until now. Very few refugees have been resettled. 2016 began with yet another picture of a dead child, while trying to reach safety and peace, and with the alert from the former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres: the EU has failed, and only traffickers are managing the migrants’ influx.

There is a growing and worrying incapacity, within the Union, to “include the other”, to use a classical expression of J. Habermas. In fact, the refugees’ crisis is only the worst, more serious symptom, of a larger problem: the loss of the European social project, the abandonment of an idea of Europe as an inclusive and plural community of equals. With this phenomenon comes the loss of hope in the Union’s institutions, trapped between the unwillingness of some and the incapacity of others to find reasonable political solutions to people’s problems.

Under this scenario, citizens are turning to other, quite unsettling, options. Extreme right-wing parties are gaining followers and votes all over Europe (France, Hungary and Poland are good examples of this), without a decisive institutional reaction from the EU, even in common matters, and in a striking contrast with the way the Greek crisis was handled.

Nationalism and separatism are rising. No later than 2017, the UK will hold an in-out referendum about the Union. An “out” vote will have unpredictable consequences and may be the end of the European project as we knew it: the “fall of the Empire”. Therefore, the biggest challenge for the time to come is to reinvent the EU. To build European politics based on hope and on values such as solidarity, diversity and rule of law, rather than fear and exclusion. Only Europe can save itself. Will it succeed?

Picture credits: Michael Gubi

[We also invite you to take a look at the Portuguese elections aftermath as commented by Sérgio Maia Tavares Marques, here.]

General Comment – foyer (or Cul-de-sac A Failure Not Worthy Being Called a Failure) [PART 2]

[This is the second part of a comment on the Portuguese elections aftermath, the author will soon provide the final part of this article – PART 3.]
by Sérgio Maia Tavares Marques, Jurist and 
student of the Master's degree in EU Law of UMinho




Previously, I have argued that the seeming failure of Portugal for not presenting the draft for the annual budget within the deadline fixed in the TSCG could not be considered a failure. I pointed that the reason for that fact (the delay/failure) was the political negotiation process in the country that it was not yet concluded at that time following a post electoral circumstance never seen before. Days have come and gone and on 26th of November a new Socialist + Leftist parties government took over. Mr. António Costa came to office in replacement of the right wing coalition led by PSD and the former PM, Mr. Pedro Passos Coelho, who had been originally nominated by the President. However, a motion of rejection was voted and approved by the left wing parties altogether and a new cabinet was formed and got in place.

As I underlined, my point was that it was not possible, nor advised for Portugal, to send the European Commission a budget draft when an upcoming administration (with its expenditure priorities) was still unknown. The country could not commit itself to figures that would only be mythical and/or misplaced. Plus and more importantly, I reasoned (in constitutional pluralist terms) that the appointment of a new government, as a direct result of the people´s will expression, can only be considered part of a national identity. In that sense, it falls within the scope of article 4/2 TEU. Therefore, the EU should encourage the demos and not persecute it. Nonetheless, Mr. Valdis Dombrovskis pressured Portugal with possible judicial actions and the situation was put on hold.

Continue reading “General Comment – foyer (or Cul-de-sac A Failure Not Worthy Being Called a Failure) [PART 2]”