Legal and political scholars pay great attention to the interinstitutional agreements among EU institutions, and for a good reason: it’s where a lot of the institutional innovations first take hold. Now an interinstitutional agreement (IIA) between the European Parliament (EP) and the European Commission has become an object of dispute. The Council has voiced its strong criticism of the document, claiming that several provisions of the framework agreement have modified the institutional balance set, providing certain prerogatives for the European Parliament that are not provided for in the treaties and that are limiting the autonomy of the Commission and its President (hat tip: EUobserver).
The Council is concerned about the participation of the EP in international talks and its increased access to classified documents and to information related to legal cases pursued by the Commission against Member States. The Council threatens to challenge any action of the Commission and the EP that would have an effect contrary to the interests and the prerogatives conferred upon it by the Treaties.
The question is whether these provisions do constitute a shift of the institutional balance that breaches the Treaties. This is a twofold question. We very well know that IIAs do shift the institutional balance to some extent, and this agreement is a good example. But does this one breach the Treaties?
Martinned thinks that the agreement shifts the political balance, and not so much the legal balance of power. Piotr Kaczynski from CEPS is quoted by EUobserver saying that the IIA as such doesn’t necessarily break the Lisbon Treaty.
I concur that the IIA probably does not breach the Treaties simply because it does not have the potential to do so. Naturally, the Council may wish to challenge the actions based on the IIA, but will likely face little understanding from the ECJ, provided that the Commission and the EP haven’t made a flagrant violation, of course.