Tag Archives: Reform

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.

Public Consultation on the Future of the Cohesion Policy

The Commission is opening a public consultation on the future of cohesion policy. In its conclusions of the fifth report on economic, social and territorial cohesion the Commission has outlined the main ideas for reform that will be discussed during the consultation. This is a very important exercise in the policy development phase.

The main topics:

1. A new strategic programming approach for cohesion policy, consisting of:

– common strategic framework (CSF) adopted by the Commission translating the targets and objectives of Europe 2020 into investment priorities, and

– a development and investment partnership contract which, based on the common strategic framework, would set out the investment priorities, the allocation of national and EU resources between priority areas and programmes, the agreed conditionalities, and the targets to be achieved.

2. Increasing thematic concentration – Member States and regions should concentrate EU and national resources on a small number of priorities responding to the specific challenges that they face.

3. Strengthening performance through conditionality and incentives – specific binding conditionality in the areas directly linked to cohesion policy would be agreed with each Member State and/or region.

4. Improving evaluation, performance and results – setting of clear and measurable targets and outcome indicators, using impact evaluations.

5. Supporting use of new financial instruments.

6. Introducing a third dimension: territorial cohesion – whether the regulatory architecture of cohesion policy should allow greater flexibility in organising operational programmes in order to reflect the nature and geography of development processes better.

7. Reinforcing partnership – supporting active inclusion, fostering social innovation, developing innovation strategies or designing schemes for regeneration of deprived areas.

8. Financial management – output- or results-based elements for disbursement of the EU contribution, simplified methods of reimbursement.

9. Reducing the administrative burden – alignment of rules on eligibility of expenditures across policy areas, financial instruments and funds.

10. Financial discipline.

11. Financial control – review the procedure for ex-ante assessment of the management and control systems.

12. The architecture of cohesion policy – including regions currently eligible under the ‘convergence’ objective but whose GDP would be higher than 75% of the Union average according to the latest statistics.

On the Benchmarks for Reform and Bulgarian Organized Crime

There is an ongoing crackdown on organized crime in Bulgaria. This should be good news. But the prosecution will have to prove allegations in court. The benchmark is judgments with res judicata.

There’s also the Bulgarian Supreme Judicial Council that refused to sack high-ranking magistrates that have been in contact with the infamous Krasimir Georgiev-Krasio. The benchmark here is called implementation of the code of conduct, or its lack thereof.

Both benchmarks are important. Both benchmarks are NOT yet reached.

G-20 – What Economic Decision-Making?

It is said that the Group of 20 (G-20) is set to become the premier coordinating body on global economic issues. But what does it mean?

Indeed, the summit statement says that G-20 is “to be the premier forum for our international economic cooperation”. The statement outlines three areas of cooperation:

  • G-20 members will agree on shared policy objectives;
  • G-20 members will set out medium-term policy frameworks and will work together to assess the collective implications of national policy frameworks;
  • G-20 Leaders will consider, based on the results of the mutual assessment, and agree any actions to meet common objectives.

The G-20 is perceived as an efficient forum that now allows for the inclusion of developing countries in the global economic and financial governance. One of the most important tasks ahead of G-20 appears to be the reform of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other global financial institutions.

Other experts, however, claim that the process of reform cannot be restricted to the G-20 or similar associations that exclude so many of the world’s countries. That is why G-20 cannot replace a fully legitimate and universal international organization, such as the IMF.

An additional critique is that large countries like Bangladesh or Nigeria are missing and that Europe is over-represented in the G-20 forum—which cripples democratic representation .

57 Points for Bulgarian Judicial Reform

The Bulgarian Ministry of Justice has announced a new action plan of 57 points aiming at a thorough reform of the Bulgarian judiciary system.

This is really good news. But it would be much, much better if the public were allowed to see that document, and if it was discussed with relevant stakeholders and NGOs before being sent to Brussels.

We do need transparency of policy making and policy implementation in order to produce sustainable results in this surmounting task – reforming the Bulgarian judiciary.

Useful Tool on Financial Regulation Reform in the EU and US

A graphic tool by the Financial Times explains the existing framework and proposed changes to financial regulation in the EU, US and UK.

To my best knowledge, the UK is still an EU Member State. However, it is not part of the eurozone and London is the biggest financial centre in Europe. That explains the separate heading.

European Parliament blocks Telecom Legislation

The European Parliament has introduced a new amendment on the reform package of EU telecommunications law, overriding the previously reached compromise.

It comes in defiance of a draft French law that persecutes Internet users who violate copyright laws by illegal sharing of content on the Internet. The amendment requires that “no restriction may be imposed on the fundamental rights and freedoms of end users, without a prior ruling by the judicial authorities (…) save when public security is threatened”.

This approach is contested by Member states and the whole package may fail.

Now I am wondering if this has anything to do with the row over the Working Time Directive?

PACE: Bulgaria Has Delivered “Cosmetic Changes” of the Judiciary

Serhiy Holovaty, chairman of the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has issued a report with findings from his visit in Bulgaria in November 2008.

He says:

“It is my general impression that, in the haste to meet the strenuous accession deadlines, some of the reforms and, in particular, the reform of the judiciary, have undergone numerous “cosmetic changes” that have pushed the reforms in an undesired direction. This was namely the case of the constitutional amendments and the amendments to the Judicial System Act adopted in February 2007.”

He pinpoints three specific problems:

  • lengthy preliminary proceedings in the criminal justice system;
  • low number of proceedings against high-level officials and civil servants involved in corruption cases;
  • non-execution of the Strasbourg Court judgments due to a low rate of reopening of criminal court cases following a judgment of the Strasbourg Court and to the absence of legal provisions enabling to do so in civil cases.

He goes on to say that:

Bulgaria remains a country with endemic corruption that has gained the ranks of the administration and the judiciary. (…)The weaknesses of the judiciary in Bulgaria have repercussions on most spheres of society which hampers the proper functioning of all democratic institutions.”

Now, it remains to be seen exactly in WHAT political context can the Bulgarian government explain any bias or ill will on behalf of Mr. Holovaty.

The Venice Commission Comments on New Judiciary Reforms in Bulgaria

The European Commission for Democracy Through Law (the Venice Commission ) has issued a report on the draft Law amending and supplementing the Law on Judicial Power of Bulgaria. as usual, the report is very balanced and written with substantial expertise.

Overall, the report supports the proposed amendments, but considers that the reform should be much more substantial.

An important critique in the report is towards some remaining elements of prosecutors’ powers “typically found in the traditional Soviet-style prokuratura model”. The report also reminds the Venice Commission objection to the fact that 11 members of the Supreme Judicial Council are still elected by Parliament by simple majority. The authors consider that the combination of powers in relation to judges prosecutors and investigators in a single judicial council (such as powers of appointment and discipline) remains problematical.