Major urged to seek cuts in commission powers

JOHN MAJOR is being urged to press for a radical plan to cut the powers of the European Commission by 'unbundling' its functions when the European Union decides on institutional change in 1996.

The sweeping reform of the way the Commission operates would help the EU to reassert enforcement of the single market as its main priority, according to a study for the cross-party European Policy Forum by its director, Frank Vibert.

The study from the EPF coincides with a report from a team led by Frank Field, Labour MP for Birkenhead, which argues that the main threat to the institutions of Europe comes from growing unemployment. It calls for a Europe-wide package of reflationary and supply- side measures.

Mr Vibert proposes splitting the commission into three new bodies: a Commission for the Single Market; a Treasury Board to oversee financial programmes, including income support for farmers; and a Trade Commission to handle external commercial policy.

Its role of intervention in cases of unfair competition, monopolies and mergers would be transferred to an independent competition authority, and its involvement in the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy would move to the Council of Ministers' Secretariat.

Mr Vibert also suggests a shake- up of the European bureaucracy by putting staff on national civil servant pay scales with fixed-term, five-year contracts.

Meanwhile, Mr Field's team are seeking: EU-wide cuts in VAT to stimulate demand; the maintenance of cash spending at a level 'equal to the maximum non-inflationary rate of growth'; and 'active labour-market policies' reducing the time that benefits are paid and helping people back into work, using welfare funds for job and wage subsidies and providing tax credits for the low paid.

The Future Role of the European Commission; pounds 7.50; EPF; 20 Queen Anne's Gate, London SW1H 9AA.

Europe Isn't Working; pounds 9.95; Frank Field, House of Commons.

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