Decision-making and legislation in the European Union EU-integration knowledges Written by Endre Domonkos 1st Semester, Academic Year 2010/2011
I. The structure of the European Union • According to the Maastricht Treaty the European Union is based on „three pillars”. First pillar: three Communities that were already in operation, including the EMU; Second pillar: Common Foreign and Security Policy; Third pillar: Cooperation on Justice and Home Affairs: based on intergovernmental cooperation. • It’s important to note that the system of pillars was abolished by the Treaty of Lisbon. • In accordance with the first pillar decision-making structure of the European Union, the right of initiative at present falls within the competence of the Commission, and the Council – in conjunction with the Parliament, or by itself – decides on the Commission’s proposals after hearing the Parliament’s opinion and having included it in the decision-making process. • In certain cases, the Council may also request the opinion of the Economic and Social Committee or the Committee of the Regions; however, this opinion has no binding force. • Within the framework of this system, developed over the decades, joint decisions are made and Community legislation is realised through cooperation between the three most significant Community institutions: the Commission safeguarding Community interests; the Council, representing the Member States, and; the Parliament, representing the citizens through political parties. • Although the European Council doesn’t take part in the legislative process as such, by adopting guidelines and making decisions that set the framework for legislative issues, it sets the course of and determines the progress of the legislative process.
II. The importance of the Commission’s role in preparing decisions • According to the Treaty of Rome the Commission became an organ that essentially deals with preparing decisions and submitting proposals. • The Commission has „exclusive rights” in the first pillar decision-making procedure. • The exclusive right of wording and proposals means that, in accordance with the rules and regulations, a Commission proposal can only be amended by the Council acting by a unanimous decision. • In addition, before a Community act is adopted by the Council, the Commission may withdraw its proposals at any time, should it consider the amendments proposed with respect to that proposal to be unacceptable. • Because representatives of the Commission are present at all levels of negotiations at the Council (and in the Parliament), the Commission is able to constantly follow any attempts by the Member States to amend the original proposal. • Should the Commission fail to agree to the proposed amendments, it has the right to withdraw its proposal. However, if this happens, no act will be adopted on the given matter and, naturally, this not in the interests of the Commission either. It is a common practice in the case of withdrawn proposals for the Commission to revise and then resubmit its proposal. The Commission - whose proposals can only be amended by unanimity and who can withdraw a proposal if it finds the amendments to it unacceptable - has a quasi right of assent in Community legislation. • In describing the significance of the Commission, we have to emphasize that, besides its exclusive policy-proposing role in Community matters, the Commission also carries about tasks related to implementation and normative decision-making with regard to issues concerning certain policies (e. g. agriculture, commerce, competition).
III. The Council as the principal decision-making organ I. • The Council (Council of Ministers) is the main decision-making body of the European Union. • Within the Council, the COREPER (the Committee of Permanent Representatives) plays a significant role in coordination. • The COREPER is the primary link between the Commission and the Member States. • In every case, the Commission first forwards its proposal for a decision or legislation on a given matter to the Permanent Representations of the Member States in Brussels, who forward the proposal to the competent national government offices. • Once the national positions on these matters are formulated, the proposal is first discussed by working groups composed of various officials from the Member States, then by the COREPER itself. • The ministers deal with the matter only in the final phase, when an agreement is near. If there is a full consensus on a matter discussed in the COREPER, then the ministers often adopt the proposal without discussing the matter (called as „A” matters). • Thus, within this system, the COREPER is charged with a rather comprehensive task. The scope of activities carried out by the COREPER and the Representatives include the maintenance of contacts between national governments and Community institutions, involvement in coordinating the work of national governments, coordination between the Commission and the Council and, finally, the preparation of decisions within various working groups.
III. The Council as the principal decision-making organ II. • About 250 working groups assist continuously and carry out the preparations for the work of the Council and the COREPER. • The task of the working groups is to carry out the preparations for the work of the Council and the COREPER. • The Council working groups are usually composed of one or two ministerial experts from the Member States (who are usually accompanied by the competent official working at the country’s Permanent Representation) and the competent representatives of the Commission. • The role of the working groups are to prepare the Commission’s proposal in a professional manner in anticipation of the political debates that take place in the COREPER. • The working group strive on consensus and, if they reach consensus, a decision in principle on a particular matter is often already developed at this stage. Having discussed the decision in the COREPER, the Council often adopts the proposal without further deliberations (as A points). For about 85 % of the items on the Council’s agenda, agreement is reached at a lower level (70-75 % in working groups, 10-15% in COREPER). • In the model based on the Council’s dominant role in decision-making, the country that had the Presidency assumed a predominant role in the process of conciliation between the Member States and in making compromises. • The Presidency at every level of the Council (including the European Council) acts as an intermediary between national delegations with opposing positions and to elaborate alternative solutions.The Presidency carries out its activities in close cooperation with the Commission.
III. The Council as the principal decision-making organ III. • As a result of the increasingly complicated process of makingcompromises, Heads of State or Government gradually came to be involved in decision-making, while the role of the President also gained in significance. • In a situation where matters were often inter-twined and where sectoral Councils often had conflicts of interest, the top political leadership was required to make the most essential compromises and to lay down the rules of cooperation, acting as a body administering justice and having appellate jurisdiction. • As a result, the European Council, i.e. the „Council” of Heads of State or Government, was consolidated in 1974, and European summits became a standard practice. • Today, every strategic decision in connection with matters of any political significance is a decision reached at the meetings of Heads of State or Government. • It has to be emphasized that in every single body related to the Council (from working groups to the European Council itself), this process is dominated by a constant effort to make compromises. It is a characteristic feature of the debating culture that, in reaching a final decision, the Member States generally try to avoid open confrontation. • As the Council is the primary decision-making organ of the European Union, one of the most serious problems facing the institutional structure of the Union lies with the fact that, even after repeated amendments to the Treaty, the requirement to have unanimous decision-making still applies to a number of matters that are relevant to the advancement of integration (taxation, social policy matters, issues related to commercial policy and certain justice and home affairs). • Thanked to the provisions of the Treaty of Lisbon the qualified majority voting system was introduced for more than 50 fields and unanimous voting was reduced significantly.
IV. Enhanced Cooperation • The application of the mechanism of „enhanced cooperation” may be applied if certain Member States wish to establish closer integration in a given area and accelerate progress, while others aren’t inclined or not able to do so. Enhanced cooperation means that certain Member States strengthen their integration, while others may choose not enter into cooperation. • Those who shun cooperation can still fall into line with the „forerunners” later on, if they wih to do so. The possibility of entering into enhanced cooperation must always be open to every single Member State. Within the framework of enhanced cooperation, only those Member States that are already involved in the cooperation have the right to vote. • The enhanced cooperation was introduced by the Treaty of Amsterdam. In accordance with the Treaty of Amsterdam, the implementation of enhanced cooperation required the participation of more than half of the Member States and the unanimous permission of all Member States. • In accordance with the Treaty of Nice, 8 Member States may initiate enhanced cooperation, irrespective of the total number of Member States, and a qualified majority is enough to establish the cooperation. However, in areas that fall under the scope of the co-decision procedure, the consent of the European Parliament is also a precondition to the initiation of enhanced cooperation. • According to the Treaty of Nice enhanced cooperation cannot be launched if that cooperation would undermine the functioning of the single market and weaken economic and social cohesion. • Enhanced cooperation is (excluding cooperation in the area of defence policy or military matters) is also possible in the second pillar of the EU. It’s essential be achieved a unanimity between the Member States.
V. The expansion of the Parliament’s powers • It took decades for the European Parliament to gain ground in the system dominated by the Council and the Commission. • The European Parliament had no real legislative powers like national parliaments, except for the budgetary powers granted in 1970 and 1975. • The Single European Act expanded the competences of the Parliament. In accordance with the Act, the so-called cooperation procedure was introduced in ten community areas. Consequently, in certain matters, the Parliament received significantly greater powers than it had had within the framework of the earlier consultative mechanism. • Another important changement was that the so-called „assent powers” was introduced by the Act. This meant that the Council could decide on a specific matter only after having secured the prior assent of the Parliament. • It’s important to emphasize that the Parliament still had no genuine decision-making rights. • The Treaty of Maastricht expanded the decision-making and legislative powers of the Parliament. The co-decision procedure was introduced, which meant that in certain areas the Parliament was a decision-maker equal in rank to the Council. • The Parliament can now act as a decision-maker, and no decision can be made without its agreement. With the co-decision procedure, in effect, Parliament was, in practical terms, granted the co-legislative function that it had been seeking for decades. • Co-decision procedure was expanded to 23 other areas by the Treaty of Amsterdam. The Treaty of Nice extended the EP’ s co-decision power to five new areas and allowing for the possibility of extending co-decision to certain social policy and first pillar JHA issues by a unanimous decision of the Council.
VI. Decision-making procedures according to Parliament’s participation • The Treaty contains separate provisions for every single matter as to the conditions of Parliament’s participation in decision-making. • In the case of certain matters, it is sufficient to inform the Parliament, while in others, the Parliament acts as a legislator, cooperating with the Council on equal footing. • Depending on the extent of Parliament’s participation, theoretically there are seven separate procedures through which decisions can be made. • The Community legislation is realised through four procedures (that of consultation, cooperation, assent and co-decision). • Besides these legislative procedures, there are other additional procedures (information, budgetary and those created by Inter-institutional Agreements). • The application of the cooperation procedure is limited to a few areas related to the economic and monetary union, while the assent procedure is also applied quite rarely, and only in the case of matters of great significance. • As a result, Community legislation today is essentially characterised by the application of the consultation and co-decision procedures.
VII. The consultation procedure • The consultation procedure was introduced by the Single European Act. • The Parliament’s power to enforce its interests is at its most restricted during the consultation; but its capacity cannot be regarded as negligible. The Council may only decide on a matter after it has obtained the Parliament’s opinion. Although the Council is not obliged to take the Parliament’s opinion into account, it cannot make a decision in the absence of such an opinion. • The Parliament cannot postpone indefinitely the delivery of its opinion, it must cooperate with the Council in good faith. • By delaying its position, Parliament may be able to have its proposals for amendment taken into consideration, especially in matters that require a swift decision, and the Commission may have to revise the original proposal. The Parliament may make its opinion available to the Council only after the preparation of a version that it finds acceptable is complete. • Technically this can be done as follows: the Parliament only adopts a position with regard to the complete legislative initiative if the Commission has incorporated the Parliament’s proposed amendments. Only after having received the Parliament’s position can the Council make a decision. • If the Commission adopts the amendments requested by the Parliament, those amendments also become Commission proposals, which the Council can only reject with a unanimous vote. • The Commission is generally inclined to incorporate amendments by the Parliament (in three out of four cases). The Council is much less inclined to adopt amendments and usually gives its support to approximately half of the Parliament’s motions.
VIII. The cooperation procedure • The cooperation procedure was introduced by the Single European Act that allowed the Parliament a greater say in Community matters. It is applied in four areas related to the economic and monetary union (EMU). • Within the framework of cooperation, Parliament had the right – compared with the consultation procedure – of receiving the legislative proposal for a second reading, this time with the Council’s proposed version, also known as a common position. • During the second reading, Parliament has three options: 1. It can accept the Council’s common position, in which case the Council only has to confirm its decision. 2. It can reject the common position by an absolute majority (with more than half of all its members voting in favour), in which case the Council can adopt it by unanimity. 3. It can propose amendments, in which case the same procedure is followed as in consultation, i.e. if the Commission supports the amendments, they can only be rejected by the Council by a unanimous vote. • In option 2 the Parliament’s role is important in the decision-making. When elaborating its position, the Council has to take into account the fact that, if it fails to take on board enough of Parliament’s amendments proposed in the first reading, it runs the risk of its position being rejected by Parliament. In such case, the Council can then only adopt the common position – that is the new legislative act – with a unanimous decision. • According to the Treaty of Amsterdam many areas that had previously fallen within the scope of this procedure were placed within the scope of the co-decision procedure.
IX. The assent procedure • The assent procedure, introduced by the Single European Act, essentially means that the Parliament has the right of veto in areas placed within the scope of this procedure by the Treaties. • These are usually high priority areas in terms of the EU’s development. • Within this decision-making procedure, obtaining the Parliament’s assent prior to the decision by the Council is necessary condition for adopting a proposal on a specific matter. • However, the Parliament is not allowed to submit any amendments during this procedure. Should the Parliament reject a proposal, the Council will not be allowed to vote on the proposal. • There are two forms of the assent procedure. The ‘yes’ vote of the majority of the MEPs present (i.e. simple majority) is generally sufficient for adoption. However, there are cases when adoption requires an absolute majority, which means that the support of more than half of all the MEPs is needed. • An absolute majority is required in the case of accession treaties, decisions on situations where there is a risk that fundamental rights may be seriously breached, decisions on the existence of such a breach, and in connection with decisions concerning the establishment of a common European electoral system. • Assent provides the Parliament quite significant decision-making powers as, without the Parliament, no decisions can be made in areas falling within the scope of this procedure under the Treaties. • The lack of the assent procedure is that the Parliament is not allowed to propose amendments to submitted proposals – it may only adopt or reject proposals.
X. The co-decision procedure I. • The Treaty of Maastricht introduced the co-decision procedure in 15 Community areas. • The procedure’s significance was enhanced later by the Treaty of Amsterdam, which placed 23 additional areas under its scope. • The new Treaty expanded the Parliament’s co-decision powers to five additional areas, and in the case of certain social policy issues and first pillar justice and home affairs, also allowed for the prospective expansion of the scope of the co-decision procedure to additional areas, in accordance with the unanimous decision in the Council. • Within the framework of the co-decision procedure, the Parliament may make amendments, and its consent is also a precondition to make a final decision. Consequently, in the co-decision procedure, the Parliament acts as a co-decision maker with a rank equal to that of the Council. • The Treaties (of Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice) introduced the co-decision procedure in areas that directly concern the interests of citizens (e.g. free movement of workers, employment, social policy, public health, and consumer protection). • The Treaty of Lisbon defines the co-decision making procedure as ordinary legislative procedure (i.e. general rule) naturally entails a considerable extension of its scope. • Co-decision procedure potentially involving three readings, which can end after the first or second reading if there is agreement between the Council and Parliament.
X. The co-decision procedure II. • In co-decision, as a first step of the procedure, the Commission forwards its proposal to the Council and Parliament. Simultaneous submission to both institutions is an important feature of co-decision, because the Commission must treat the two institutions equally in this procedure. • The debate on the proposal begins in parallel in the two institutions but, officially, Parliament has the right to go first and decide whether it supports the Commission proposal as it stands, with amendments or not all. • The Council can start debating the proposal at the same time as Parliament, but can only make its decisions once it has learned Parliament’s opinion. • The Council and the Commission have to inform the Parliament or its competent committee regularly about the state of play of the negotiations. • The Parliament thus is the first one to deliver its opinion on the Commission proposal, which may also comprise proposals for amendments. Should the Council agree with the proposal from the Parliament, it may also adopt the act, which brings the procedure to close. • However, if the Parliament doesn’t have the Council’s agreement on every aspect of the matter, the Council submits its own proposal, the so-called common position, to the Parliament. • The Parliament considers the common position in so-called second reading.
X. The co-decision procedure III. • From the second reading once the Council has adopted its common position strict deadlines are defined for the procedure. The Parliament must then choose from one of the following four options within a period of three months (extendable by one month): 1. not to deliver an opinion; 2. adopt the Council’s position; 3. reject the Council’s position, acting by an absolute majority; 4. propose amendments to the Council’s position. • In the first two cases, the legislative act is deemed adopted to the text of the Council common position, and the procedure is completed. • In the third case, the proposal is regarded as being rejected, the procedure is terminated without a result and the proposed act does not enter into force. • In the fourth case, after the Commission has considered the proposal, the Parliament sends it back to the Council, in effect for a second reading, which the Council has to produce within a period of three months (extendable by one month). Should the Council adopt every proposed amendment coming from the Parliament during this period, the act is final (according to the text of Parliament’s opinion in the second reading) and the procedure is completed. • If the Council fails to agree with the Parliament on every aspect of the matter, then the special third readings begins.
X. The co-decision procedure IV. • In the third reading, a so-called Conciliation Committee is convened a period of six weeks (which may be extended by two weeks). • The Conciliation Committee is composed of the members of the Council (one from each Member State, generally deputy permanent representatives) and an equal number of representatives of the European Parliament from each Member State. • Representatives of the Commission also take part in the proceedings of the Committee. • The task of the Conciliation Committee is to establish a compromise between the two institutions within a period of six weeks (extendable by two weeks) and to adopt a compromise text, with the support of the qualified majority of Council representatives and the majority of MEPs. • The 6+2 week deadline or the Committee’s work starts with the Committee’s first meeting, but preparatory work begins earlier. • The main task of the Committee is to approximate the positions in the framework of informal so-called trialogue meetings between the Council, Parliament and Commission. • These trialogue meetings are held before the first meeting of the Conciliation Committee often allow for a successful conclusion of the conciliation procedureduring the first Committee meeting.
X. The co-decision procedure V. • There are three possible outcomes of the conciliation procedure: 1. An agreement is reached, and the Conciliation Committee prepares a joint text, which is approved by the Parliament acting by a simple majority of the votes cast in plenary session, and by the Council acting by a pre-defined voting procedure (generally, by a qualified majority of the votes cast) within a period of six weeks (extendable by two weeks), after which the act shall be deemed to have been adopted, and the procedure is completed. 2. An agreement is reached, but one of the two institutions fails to approve the joint text, thus the proposed act is deemed not to have been adopted, and the procedure is terminated without having reached a result; 3. Members of the Conciliation Committee fail to come an agreement, the proposed act is not adopted, and the procedure is terminated without having reached a result. • Concerning the Conciliation Committee’s work it should be noted that the Commission’s role in this stage of the procedure is more limited than in other procedures. • The Commission may repeal the draft act any point before the Conciliation Committee is convened if it cannot agree with the way in which it was amended (furthermore, the Commission’s opinion delivered after the second reading can only be amended by a unanimous Council decision). • However, once the Conciliation Committee is convened, the Commission’s powers of influence are essentially exhausted. • From thereafter, everything depends on whether the Council and the Parliament can come to an agreement, and neither of them is required to take into account the Commission’s position when making a decision, relegating the Commission to the role of a mediator.
XI. The budgetary procedure I. • The budgetary procedure is a unique decision-making process, which involves the Council, the Commission and the Parliament. • The Commission prepares the Community budget, while the actual decision on its adoption is taken by the Council and the Parliament. • The budgetary procedure is conducted to a strict timetable laid down in the EC Treaty. • Every year, the Commission prepares a preliminary draft budget according to the multi-annual financial perspectives set by the Council; the draft is sent to the Council by no later than 1 September. • In practice, however, a ‘pragmatic timetable’ is applied by the three institutions, and the Commission adopts the preliminary draft budget in late April and tries to have as many rounds as possible of informal consultations (‘trialogue meetings’) with the Council and the Parliament. • Having received the preliminary draft budget, both the Council and the Parliament start to elaborate their own positions on the draft. • The Council conducts its first reading of the preliminary draft end establishes the draft budget before 5 October, which it then sends to the Parliament. Both modifications to and adoption of the Commission’s proposals require a decision by qualified majority voting. • Parliament conducts its first reading in a plenary session held within 45 days of the receipt of the Council’s draft.
XI. The budgetary procedure II. • Parliament can either adopt the budget in its first reading (which is usually not the case), propose modifications to compulsory expenditure (obligations arising from the Treaties or from commitments under international agreements, which account for about half of the budget) acting by an absolute majority of its members. • These proposals and amendments are sent back to the Council, where a final decision is taken on compulsory expenditure by qualified majority voting and the Council adopts its own amended version on non-compulsory expenditure, also with qualified majority voting (this is the Council’s second reading). • The draft budget, as amended is returned to the Parliament, which devotes most of its December part-session to reviewing non-compulsory expenditure, on which it can accept or refuse the Council’s proposals. • If the Council doesn’t support Parliament’s amendments for non-compulsory expenditure, Parliament has the power to overrule the Council’s decision within a period of 15 days and, acting by a majority of its members and three-fifths of the votes cast, can amend the amounts adopted by the Council. • If Parliament is not satisfied with the final solution (especially with the Council’s version for compulsory expenditure), it can reject the entire budget at its last plenary session in December by a two-thirds majority. • In such cases, until an agreement is reached and the new annual budget is adopted the provisional twelfths come into play, using the previous year’s budget as a reference. • Since the introduction of the multi-annual budgetary packages (the financial perspectives), the adoption of the budget has been smoother; since 1988, the Council and Parliament have always managed to agree on the budget in time. • At the end of the budgetary procedure, the Parliament’s President declares the budget adopted. The budget is then implemented by the Commission. The Court of Auditors has responsibility for controlling the budget implementation and monitoring financial management.
XII. Other decision-making procedures • Information procedure: the European Parliament must be informed about certain monetary and economic measures taken by the Council (or the Commission). In accordance with Article 99 (2) of the EC Treaty, the Council must inform the Parliament of the broad guidelines of the economic policies adopted by the Council acting on a recommendation of the Commission. • Information procedure is carried out in accordance with Article 133 of the EC Treaty, concerning the Common Commercial Policy. Within the framework of this procedure, the Council must inform the Parliament of trade agreements concluded in accordance with Article 133; however as the Council informs the Parliament only after the adoption of the agreement, the Parliament in practice has no influence in the matter. • Conciliation procedure: within the framework of Inter-institutional Agreements, the Council, the Parliament and the Commission undertake to engage themselves to facilitate certain relations and connections that exist between them. Relations between the Parliament and the Commission are also regulated by such Inter-institutional Agreement, which refine relations between the two institutions. • Conciliation procedure is carried out between the Council and the Parliament, with the active participation of the Commission. The main target is to have an official positions reconciled with respect to those generally applied Community acts which have significant financial implications and whose adoption is not regulated by separate norms. • Since 1975 in the framework of conciliation procedure the three institutions conduct a consultation complementary and prior to the budgetary procedure(Trialogue meetings: set priority figures for the annual budget before the Commission adopts the first draw.
XIII. Decision-making in the second pillar • The second pillar decision-making is based on intergovernmental cooperation. The main responsibility for operation and decision-making in the second pillar lies fundamentally with the Council and the European Council. Decisions are taken in unanimity. • The European Council plays a leading role at the strategic level of the common foreign and security policy, defending principles and general guidelines for the CSFP (including issues with a defence implication) and formulating common strategies to be implemented by the Union. • The Council ensures unity, coherence and effectiveness of Union action; it adopts decision required for operating the common foreign and security policy: joint actions, common positions and other decisions necessary for their implementation. • The common foreign and security policy falls within the scope of competence of the General Affairs and External Relations Council. Its work is assisted by COREPER II and by committees set up specifically for the second pillar. • Political and Security Committee (to provide a daily consultation). The European Union Military Committee and the European Union Military Staff are responsible on defence and military issues. • Commission and Parliament involvement is much more limited than in the first pillar. The Commission’s right of initiative is not exclusive but it is shared with the Member States. Every Member State or the Commission can put forward proposals to the Council concerning issues related to the common foreign and security policy. The EP can pose questions and make recommendations to the Council. • The Council Presidency consults the European Parliament on the key aspects of the common foreign and security policy + ensures the Parliament’s views are appropriately taken into consideration.
XIV. Decision-making in the third pillar • The third pillar is regulated by the EU Treaty and covers police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters. • According to the general rule, in this pillar any Member State and the Commission can initiate legislative acts. • Thus the Commission’s right of initiative is not exclusive, but is shared with the Member States. • Similarly to the second pillar, decisions are made in the Council, with a less determinant role assigned to the European Council, essentially confined to strategic guidelines. • In the third pillar, the Council can adopt common positions, framework decisions, decisions and conventions, acting unanimously in all cases. The Council can only use qualified majority voting for adopting measures necessary for implementing decisions. • Police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters falls within the scope of competence of the Justice and Home Affairs Council. Its work is assisted by COREPER II and by the Coordination Committee, whose work is supplemented by several other Council Working Groups. • In the third pillar, the European Parliament has a consultative role when the Council is adopting framework decisions, decisions or conventions. However, this right to be consulted is more limited than in the first pillar, because Parliament has to express its opinion on third-pillar issues by a deadline set by the Council, which may not be less than three months.
XV. Changes in the competences of the EU in the Treaty of Lisbon I. • The main task of the Treaty of Lisbon was to clarify the Union’s competences and the Member Stats were given the tasks of: • Laying down principles for the limits and use of Union competences, as well as the terms and conditions required to ensure that these principles are observed, in particular the role of national parliaments. • Replacing the system of three pillars, providing more precise definitions of and distinctions between Member-State and Union competences. • Ensuring flexibility in the course of exercising these competences for the sake of achieving the goals of the Union. • The Treaty of Lisbon adopts the principle of conferral but with a small clarification, adding that the Union will act exclusively within the limits of the competences conferred upon it by the Member States in the Treaty. This also means that competences not conferred upon the Union in the Treaties will remain with the Member States. • The principles of subsidiarity and proportionality are important elements of the Treaty of Lisbon. • Under the principle of subsidiarity, in areas that do not fall within its exclusive competence, the Union acts only if and insofar as the objectives of the intended action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States, either at central level or at regional and local level, but can rather, by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action, be better achieved at Union level. • Under the principle of proportionality, the content and form of Union action cannot exceed what is necessary to achieve the objectives of the Treaties.
XV. Changes in the competences of the EU in the Treaty of Lisbon II. • While, at the moment, it is the Commission’s responsibility to ensure the application of these two principles when making legislative proposals, now – according to the Treaty of Lisbon - each institution have to ensure constant respect for the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. • The national parliaments have got leading role in monitoring compliance with the principle of subsidiarity. • Any national parliament may flag a proposal for EU action which it believes does not respect this principle. This triggers a two-stage procedure: • if one third of national parliaments consider that the proposal is not in line with subsidiarity, the Commission will have to re-examine it and decide whether to maintain, adjust or withdraw it; • if a majority of national parliaments agrees with the objection but the Commission decides to maintain its proposal anyway, the Commission will have to explain its reasons, and it will be up to the European Parliament and the Council to decide whether or not to continue the legislative procedure. • National parliaments have eight weeks to respond to Commission proposals. • If the national parliaments oppose a legislative proposal with a simple majority of the votes but the Commission decided not to withdraw it, then the Council and the Parliament give their opinion on the proposal. If the proposal is deemed incompatible with the principle of subsidiarity by a 55% majority in Council or a majority in Parliament, the proposal must be withdrawn.
XV. Changes in the competences of the EU in the Treaty of Lisbon III. • The Treaty of Lisbon abolished the three-pillar division and the defined the competences of the Union into the following five categories: - exclusive competences; - shared competences; - coordinating economic and employment policies; - common foreign and security policy; - supporting, coordinating and supplementing actions. • When the Treaty of Lisbon confers the Union exclusive competence in specific area, only the Union may legislate and adopt legally binding acts, the Member States being able to do themselves only if empowered by the Union or for the implementation of acts adopted by the Union. • According to the Treaty of Lisbon, the Union has exclusive competences in the following areas: -customs union; - the establishment of competition rules necessary for the functioning of the internal market; - monetary policy for the Member States whose currency is the euro; - the conservation of marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy; - Common Commercial Policy.
XV. Changes in the competences of the EU in the Treaty of Lisbon IV. • The Treaty of Lisbon also grants the Union exclusive competence for the conclusion of an international agreement, when its conclusion is provided for in a legislative act of the Union or is necessary to enable the Union to exercise its internal competence, or insofar as its conclusion may affect common rules or alter their scope. • When the Treaty of Lisbon confers on the Union a competence shared with the Member States in a specific area, both the Union and the Member States will be able to legislate and adopt legally binding acts in that area. • The Member States will be able to exercise their competence to the extent that the Union has not exercised, or has decided to cease exercising, its competence. • Shared competence thus means that both the Union and the Member States can adopt legal acts, but the Member States can only do so if the Union has not done so or has decided not to. • In areas already regulated by the Union, that is in areas where the Member States have already decided once on the need for Community action, the Member States lose their competence and only recover it if the Union has explicitly relinquished its right to exercise its competence. • This also means that in areas of shared competence, as a result of the legislative process, the competences exercised by the Union can continuously expand.
XV. Changes in the competences of the EU in the Treaty of Lisbon V. • According to the provisions of the Treaty of Lisbon, shared competences between the Union and the Member States are applied in the following areas: - internal market; - social policy; - economic, social and territorial cohesion; - agriculture and fisheries, excluding the conservation of marine biological resources; - environment; - consumer protection; - transport; - trans-European networks; - energy; - area of freedom, security and justice; - common safety concerns in public health matters. • Shared competences will also include the following areas, but with special rules: - research, technological development and space; - development cooperation and humanitarian aid. • In the latter two areas, the Union will have competence to carry out activities, in particular to define and implement programmes in the first area and to take action and conduct a common policy in the second; however, the exercise of that competence cannot result in Member States being prevented from exercising their own competence.
XV. Changes in the competences of the EU in the Treaty of Lisbon VI. • Under the Treaty of Lisbon, the Member States will coordinate their economic and employment policies, in particular broad economic policy guidelines. • In order to ensure the functioning of the monetary union, the Treaty of Lisbon stipulates that specific provisions can apply to those Member States whose currency is the euro. • The Treaty of Lisbon empowers the Union to take measures to ensure the coordination of the employment policies of the Member States, in particular by defining guidelines for these policies, and also to take initiatives to ensure the coordination of Member States’ social policies. Thus, while in the area of economic and employment policies, the Union adopts guidelines, in social policy areas, it takes initiatives. • Under the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Union conducts a Common Foreign and Security Policy, based on the development of mutual political solidarity among Member States, the identification of questions of general interests and the achievement of an ever-increasing degree of convergence of Member States’ actions. • The Union’s competence in matters of Common Foreign and Security Policy covers all areas of foreign policy and all questions relating to the Union’s security, including the progressive framing of a common defence policy that might lead to a common defence structure. • The same Article calls upon the Member States to actively and unreservedly support the Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity and to comply with the Union’s action in this area as well as to refrain from action which is contrary to the Union’s interests or likely to impair its effectiveness.
XV. Changes in the competences of the EU in the Treaty of Lisbon VII. • In specific areas determined by the Treaty of Lisbon, the Union will have competence to carry out supporting, coordinating or complementary action without thereby superseding the competence of the Member States in these areas. • A major difference compared to shared competences is that legally binding acts adopted by the Union in these areas will not result in approximation of legislation. • The areas where the Union will have competence to carry out actions to support, coordinate or supplement the actions of the Member States at European level are: - protection and improvement of human health; - industry; - culture; - tourism; - education, youth, sport and vocational training; - civil protection; - administrative cooperation.
XVI. Changes in the decision-making of the EU in the Treaty of Lisbon I. • One element of the decision-making reforms to be introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon is the transformation and extension of the system of qualified majority voting. • The so-called double majority voting (55% of the Member States + 65% of the population) will be postponed until 1 November 2014. • According to the Treaty of Lisbon, qualified majority voting is applied in 80% 0f policy areas, and the extension of its scope will take effect immediately and not in 2014 like the double majority rule. Unanimity will only be upheld for about 50 issues that for various reasons were considered sensitive by the Member States (such as determining own resources for the EU budget, social security, family law and taxation). • The co-decision procedure is named as ordinary legislative procedure. This solution strengthens the role of the Parliament and broadens the democratic legitimacy of decisions. • According to the Treaty of Lisbon, decisions are taken by the ordinarylegislativeprocedure in about three quarters of all policy areas such as agriculture or the former third-pillar area of judicial cooperation in the field of criminal matters. • There are about twenty areas left where the Council retains its lead legislative role with Parliament playing a merely consultative role in the current consultation procedure. • The cooperation procedure was abolished completely. The assent procedure is applied some rare issues pertaining to the European Parliament’s operation (such as the statute and duties of the MEPs), where the Parliament has the right of initiative and final decision needs to obtain the Council’s consent (assent).
XVI. Changes in the decision-making of the EU in the Treaty of Lisbon II. • According to the provisions of the Treaty of Lisbon, third pillar areas were incorporated into the general structure; so much so, that in the area of judicial cooperation in criminal matters, the ordinary legislative procedure was introduced. • For police cooperation the ordinary legislative procedure is the general rule, with the exceptional application of the consultation procedure. For judicial cooperation in criminal matters, the Treaty of Lisbon introduced the so-called emergency brake clause, which enabled any Member State – if it considered that a given legislative act would affect fundamental aspects of its criminal justice system – to request the Council to suspend the decision-making procedure and refer the issue to the European Council. • In the area of police and judicial cooperationin criminal matters acts can be adopted on a proposal from the Commission or the initiative of a quarter of the Member States (maintaining, to a certain extent the parallel right of initiative of the Commission and the Member States, but setting a minimum threshold on the number of Member States. • The European Council and the Council set the Common Foreign and Security Policy by unanimity. The CSFP is implemented by the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy of the Member States. The European Parliament has got merely a consultative role. • The Commission lost its right to initiate in this area, because it was transferred to the High Representative. Member States agreed that provisions on the CFSP should not bestow upon the Commission new competences for initiating Decisions and extending the role of the European Parliament. • As before, The Court of Justice hasn’t got competence in this field, except to review the legality of acts in certain cases.
XVII. The instruments of flexible integration: enhanced cooperation and permanent structured cooperation • The Treaty of Lisbon sets the threshold for the number of Member States required for enhanced cooperation at nine. • The Treaty simplifies the use of different procedures for different pillars. Generally, a qualified majority vote is required for an authorisation to proceed with enhanced cooperation, except for the area of Common Foreign and Security Policy, where the Council continues to act unanimously. • In the area of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, initiating enhanced cooperation becomes simpler: if the Member States fail to find a compromise either in Council or in the European Council, then a minimum of one third of the Member States can request enhanced cooperation, and the authorisation to proceed with such cooperation are deemed granted. • The Council can be capable to grant such authorisation after consulting and obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, except for CFSP, where the Parliament is informed of such a decision. • In the area of Common Security and Defence Policy the Treaty of Lisbon introduced the flexible integration, which was called permanent structured cooperation. • Under this procedure the Council will be entrust the implementation of a task to a group of Member States within the Union framework. Countries meeting the criteria of higher military capabilities will be able to establish structured cooperation for the implementation of more complex tasks or more demanding missions. The Council will adopt its decision on authorising permanent structured cooperation by qualified majority and after consulting the Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Permanent structured cooperation will be open only to those Member States that make political commitment to develop their military capabilities and that have the capacity to supply rapid-response combat units.