Tag Archives: Council

The New Comitology Regulation is Published

Regulation (EU) No 182/2011 laying down the rules and general principles concerning mechanisms for control by Member States of the Commission’s exercise of implementing powers has been published in the Official Journal. It repeals Decision 1999/468/EC (the old ‘Comitology Decision’). There are now two comitology procedures – the advisory procedure and the examination procedure. The advisory procedure is the same as in the old Comitology Decision. The examination procedure replaces the management and regulatory procedures. The examination committee can approve or reject the implementing measure with qualified majority (the same voting rules as in the Council apply). In case no decision is taken, depending on the subject matter of the implementing measure, the Commission can either adopt the measure or submit it to an appeal committee, where new, final voting takes place.

All the legal and institutional issues on delegated lawmaking and the new comitology regime are reviewed in my new paper for the EUSA conference.



Is Jerzy Buzek the True Voice of EU’s Foreign Policy?

Fellow bloggers Kosmopolit and John Worth have already weighed in on the (lack of) reaction by the European Union on the events unfolding in Egypt. Their analysis of the relative inactivity of the EU’s institutions is worth reading.

What I would like to point out is that the President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, was much more specific in addressing the situation in Egypt. He made a statement on Friday, 28 January, saying:

“The entire world is watching what is happening in Egypt tonight and will hold the authorities accountable for any inappropriate use of force or any innocent death. (…) I call on Egypt, as a partner country of the EU, to fully respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of their citizens.”

Now, this isn’t the first time Mr. Buzek has responded quickly with an unequivocal statement. He also addressed the violence against protesters in Belarus, specifically calling on Lukashenko to stop the violence. The High Representative remained silent on Belarus for a few days, too.

It should be clear that the High Representative cannot act before aligning positions of all Member States. It takes only one Member State – for example, Italy, to block a common position (art. 31 TEU). That is why Ashton is significantly restrained in her field of action.

It appears that Mr. Buzek’s statements are, in such situations, the only legitimate and decisive voice coming from the institutions of the European Union.



Political Compromise on New Comitology Regime

This is a very special day. The European Parliament has confirmed today the agreement with the Council on the new regulation on implementing powers for the Commission. This new regulation, will enter into force on 1st March and will automatically replace the existing system.

As in the past, the mechanism of control foreseen by the regulation is based on “comitology” – i.e. committees composed by representatives of Member States to which the Commission submits draft implementing measures – but, contrary to the present system, there can be no intervention from the Council as an appeal body. In some specific cases there might be a need to go to an “appeal committee”, but this is just a “normal” committee, chaired by the Commission, albeit of a higher level of representation. It provides the opportunity to reconsider the draft measures or to r make changes if need be.

The regulation foresees that implementing measures in policy areas such as trade defence measures will be included in the normal regime. Until now these measures were submitted to special procedures in which the Council frequently had the last word.

The new procedures also give more flexibility to the Commission and a greater political responsibility. In the absence of a qualified majority against or in favour of a Commission draft implementing act, the Commission will have the choice between adopting the act or reviewing it.

I am currently writing an article on the new legal regime of comitology, which will be available on this blog somewhere in February 2011.

Final Compromise on the Citizens’ Initiative

The Constitutional Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council have reached an agreement on the so-called citizens’ initiative (art. 24 TFEU). The citizens’ initiative allows one million citizens to ask the Commission to propose a new EU law. The main points:

  • the admissibility check on an initiative will be made at the point of registration,
  • a citizens’ committee of at least seven members coming from seven Member States should be set up to register an initiative,
  • the signatories must come from a minimum one-quarter of the Member States,
  • the Commission will help initiative organisers by providing a user-friendly guide and setting up a point of contact,
  • if an initiative manages to collect one million signatures, a proper follow-up will be guaranteed, including a public hearing,
  • Member States will choose how to verify the authenticity of signatures.



The Schizophrenia of Intergovernmentalism

The 2011 budget of the European Union is in tatters after an unsuccessful negotiation session between the European Parliament and the Council. The budget procedure must now start anew, with the Commission proposing a new draft budget. The apple of discord has been the Parliament’s demand to participate in the negotiation of the next multiannual budget framework (2014-2020).

According to some diplomats cited by EUobserver, the Parliament wrongly assumed that member states would agree to a budget out of fear of being labeled as “anti-European” in case of a breakdown in talks.

Well, obviously they weren’t. Three countries – Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom, refused even to consider the demands of the Parliament. “There will be a budget, based on 2010 figures. There is no drama, the world won’t go under,” said one diplomat to EUobserver.

But of course. Who cares if the EU malfunctions due to underfunding? And how dare the Parliament ask for a role in negotiating the multiannual budget framework?

The governments of the Member States seem to suffer from some very peculiar type of schizophrenia. It was them that approved the equal status of the Parliament in the budget procedure. It was them that actively advocated in 2009 for the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. It was them that welcomed “a major step forward” for Europe. But now they are ready to block the EU budget in order to prevent the European Parliament from participating in talks for the multiannual budget.

This attitude of hostility towards supranational institutions and the European Union as a whole already peaked with the disgraceful treatment of the President of the Commission during the European Council meeting while discussing the deportation of Roma citizens from France. It has now been shown once again in the form of nonchalant attitude to the EU budget procedure, as if it doesn’t matter anyway.

It does matter, as will be shown in the first months of 2011 when budget rollover from 2010 will be used. But I am much more worried about the obvious lack of ownership of the European idea in Member States’ governments. They seem to distrust both the integration agenda and the supranational institutions it implies. This is a well-trod path to institutional paralysis and inefficiency.



Interinstitutional (Dis)Agreement

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.

The European Diplomatic Service – Yet Another Win for the European Parliament

There is now a political agreement between the European Parliament and the Council on the proposal for a Council Decision establishing the organisation and functioning of the European External Action Service. But wait: why do we need a political agreement for a Council decision in the first place???

Enter the budgetary powers of the European Parliament. Though the EP has only the right of consultation on the Council decision, it has much more to say on the financing of the European External Action Service. The European Parliament initially opposed the proposal, demanding budgetary oversight, that most of its staff will come from the EU institutions rather than directly from member states and that senior appointees will be politically accountable to the Parliament when carrying out their duties. That is why a compromise was needed, and the European Parliament had to work with the High Representative and the Member States on it.

This looks like a certain victory for the European Parliament.

Hedge Fund Reform Moving Forward

The Council has adopted a mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament on a new draft directive aimed at introducing harmonised EU rules for entities managing alternative investment funds (AIFM), such as hedge funds and private equity funds.

One of the main issues that stand in the way of compromise is the rules for e hedge-fund managers outside the EU. The European Parliament proposes that a non-EU AIFM that wants to market its funds in the EU would have to voluntarily subject itself to the directive’s requirements.

Bloomberg quotes Michel Barnier, the EU’s financial services commissioner, saying that he would work with finance ministers and the Parliament to get “a dynamic compromise,” which keeps “the integrity of the internal market.”

The Euro Crisis: Come What May

The eurozone crisis caused by the Greek debt problems is now taking a significant turn.The ECOFIN Council agreed on the creation of a European Financial Stabilisation mechanism with a total volume of up to € 500 billion and €250 billion from the IMF. The facility will be organised in two schemes.

The first will fall under Art. 122, para. 2 TFEU and will amount to €60bn. Its activation is subject to strong conditionality, in the context of a joint EU/IMF support. The second part will be based on an intergovernmental basis among eurozone members although Sweden and Poland have volunteered to take part, and will amount to up to €440 billion. It will be organized as a Special Purpose Vehicle on a pro rata basis by participating Member States in a coordinated manner and that will expire after three years.

Meanwhile the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank (ECB), the Federal Reserve, and the Swiss National Bank are announcing the re-establishment of temporary U.S. dollar liquidity swap facilities. The ECB also decided to conduct interventions in the euro area public and private debt securities markets to ensure depth and liquidity in those market segments which it believes are currently dysfunctional.

Bloomberg quotes Marco Annunziata, chief economist at UniCredit Group in London, saying that the measures should be more than sufficient to stabilize markets in the near term, prevent panic and contain the risk of contagion.

A strong statement by Olli Rehn: “We shall defend the euro whatever it takes”.

But how is this going to work out in reality? We don’t know yet.

New Rules of Procedure of the Council

The new Rules of Procedure of the Council have been published in the Official Journal. One of the important principles is that the Council will meet in public when it deliberates and votes on a draft legislative act.