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The EU institutions I. EU-integration knowledges Written by Endre Domonkos 1st Semester, Academic Year 20 10 /201 1 . I. The characteristics of EU-institutions I.

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The eu institutions i

The EU institutions I.

EU-integration knowledges Written by Endre Domonkos

1st Semester, Academic Year 2010/2011

I the characteristics of eu institutions i
I. The characteristics of EU-institutions I.

  • The European Union is a unique construct in international law. It’s unlike any traditional international organisation or state (intergovernmental and supranational characteristics).

  • EU cannot be seen as a simple intergovernmental organisation since it has own competences, its own legal entity through the Communities and endorses legal acts by the Community institutions. It’s not a supranational federation in which national governments and parliaments are subordinated to central federal institutions.

  • The decision-making and operating mechanism of the EU are guaranteed by four main institutions. The system based on the cooperation of the Council, the Commission, the Parliament and the Court of Justice creates the characteristics institutional structure in which intergovernmental and supranational features in a unique way.

  • The Commission: recommendation, preparation, formulation, and to a lesser degree, implementation of decisions (represents Community's interests).

  • The Council: main decision-making and legislative organ (intergovernmental organisation and represents national interestsexpressed by the member –state governments).

I the characteristics of eu institutions ii
I. The characteristics of EU-institutions II.

  • The Parliament: co-decision maker and co-legislator and partly consultative and monitoring body along with the Council. The citizens’ political interests are represented by the political parties in Parliament.

  • The Court of Justice: ensures the Community law is upheld and uniformity implemented.

  • The Court of Auditors: to check the accounts of the EU. It has the same institutional status as the Council, the Commission, the Parliament and the Court of Justice.

  • In addition to the main institutions, the other bodies of the Union also have important responsibilities.

  • These bodies, established by the Treaties, are: the two Advisory Committees, namely the Committee of Regions and the Economic and Social Committee; the financial institutions, namely the European Investment Bank and the European Central Bank (which manages the single currency of the monetary union and the European System of Central Banks); and the European Ombudsman.

Ii the european commission i
II. The European Commission I.

  • The European Commission is the body responsible for the EU’s daily work, including preparing decisions, making proposals and taking initiatives, as well as performing, monitoring, representative and, in certain cases, decision-making and executive duties

  • The term ‘Commission’ may either denote the institution’s leading political body (the so-called College of Commissioners with 25 Members called Commissioners, which functions similarly to national governments) or the institution as a whole (the Commissioners and the nearly 20000 officials under their control).

  • The Commission is generally seen as a supranational body since it doesn’t serve the Member States directly but rather the Union as a whole; as guardian of Community interests, in the in the course of fulfilling its responsibilities, it serves and represents the interests of the Union and not the individual Member States.

  • The European Commission represents supranational and common interests.

  • The Commission doesn’t govern the European Union and its decision-making and executive powers are limited.

  • Within the EU, the major decisions are taken by the Council and the Parliament, while the executive power is mainly exercised by the Member States.

  • The Commission’s seat is in Brussels, where the majority of staff is also located, although a considerable number of officials work in Luxemburg and at several other locations or outside the Union.

Ii the european commission ii
II. The European Commission II.

  • As stipulated by the Treaty of Nice and the amending Accession Treaty of the 10 new countries, from 1 November 2004 each Member State nominates one Commissioner.

  • Prior to enlargement, each of the five ‘big’ Member States (France, Germany, Italy Spain and the United Kingdom) nominated two Commissioners while the other Member States nominated one each, adding up to a Commission of 20.

  • Due to the big increase in the number of Member States, the old system was no longer sustainable; thus the Treaty of Nice had to rearrange the system to suit post-enlargement conditions.

  • By maintaining the ‘2 per big country, 1 per small country’ formula in a Union of 27 the Commission could have grown to a college of 34-35, much more than the number of portfolios available.

  • It was clear that the big Member States would have to give up one of their Commissioners but, with 27 Member States, even the arrangement would mean 27 Commissioners; thus it was uncertain whether the ‘one Member State – One Commissioner’ solution was acceptable in the long run.

  • There were two alternatives to choose from in Nice: applying the principle of ‘one Member State – One Commissioner’ or limiting the maximum number of Commissioners (e.g. at 20) and introducing a system of rotation.

  • The Members of the Commission: according to the Treaty of Nice opted „one Member State – One Commissioner” principle for a transitional period, with the proviso that the conditions for converting to a rotational system would have to be elaborated in the future.

Ii the european commission iii
II. The European Commission III.

  • When the next Commission took office, there would be one Commissioner from each Member State.

  • When the number of Member States reached 27, the Council – acting by unanimity – would have to set the number of Commissioners in a way that there would be fewer Commissioners than Member States (Unanimous decision should be adopted by the Council for a fair system of rotation that reflect the different and demographic characteristics of the Member States).

  • Until the number of Member States reached 27, each new Member State would nominate one Commissioner.

  • With the number of Member States reaching 27 on 1 January 2007, the next Commission would have to be formed according to the new rules.

  • According to the Treaty of Lisbon from November 2014 only two thirds of the Member States will nominate Commissioners.

  • The system adopted in Nice was slightly modified by the Accession Treaty insofar as it brought forward the date when the new Commission would take office from 1 January 2005 to 1 November 2004.

  • This was the first College of Commissioners to include one member from each Member State.

  • The Treaty of Accession had to include provisions for the interim period between 1 May and 1 November 2004.

  • The final transition solution meant that 10 new Commissioners joined the Prodi Commission (consisting of 20 Commissioners from the 15 ‘old’ Member States) for a period of six months, bringing the total number of the Commission up to 30 for this interim period.

Ii the european commission iv
II. The European Commission IV.

  • The new 25-member Commission was supposed to take office 1 November but, due to a dispute between the European Parliament, the appointed Commission President and the Member States concerning the suitability of some nominee Commissioners, the process was somewhat delayed.

  • Finally, the European Parliament gave its assent to the new Commission on 18 November, and the new Commissioners officially took office on 22 November with their mandate that ended on 31 October 2009.

  • The President of the Commission: provides political and strategic leadership, sets the main guidelines of the Commission’s work, shapes its working style and its relations with the other institutions. The President decides on the internal organisation of the Commission + allocates portfolios to individual members and reshuffles the allocation of these responsibilities.

  • The members of the Commission have portfolios, similarly to the Ministers of national governments.

  • The portfolios vary in their significance and political weight, which is often a source of conflict between the Member States when appointing a new Commission.

  • The allocation of the portfolios is always preceded by a lengthy political reconciliation procedure.

  • The competences assigned to individual portfolios undergo constant modifications and are re-defined whenever a new Commission is appointed, in the light of political and national interests and preferences and the changes in the Member States of the Commission.

  • Although the Commissioners are by no means the subordinates or representatives of the Member States, the national governments always set into motion significant forces to win the particular portfolio for their Commissioner which they see as crucial to influencing the Commission’s work in the most effective manner.

Ii the european commission v
II. The European Commission V.

  • To counterbalance this trend, the Treaty of Nice introduced a new system whereby it is the President who decides on the allocation of tasks and responsibilities among the Commissioners.

  • Thus the President of the Commission who took office in November 2004 was free to decide how to allocate portfolios among the members of his Commission.

  • The Commission also has a varying number of Vice-Presidents. The number of Vice-Presidents to be appointed used to be decided by the Member States, but the Treaty of Nice gave this power to the President.

  • The Prodi Commission of 1999-2004 had two Vice-Presidents, while the Barroso Commission now has five.

  • The Commissioners are appointed for a renewable period of five years by the common accord of the governments of the Member States, and with the assent of the European Parliament.

  • The Treaty of Nice enhanced further changes to the procedure of appointment of the Commission.

  • Under the Treaty of Nice, the Council nominates the President of the Commission by a qualified majority vote. This choice should be approved by the European Parliament.

  • Afterwards Commissioners are nominated by the Council (in accordance with the proposals of each Member States and in agreement with the President-designate) by qualified majority voting.

  • The entire Commission is then subject to vote of approval of the Parliament. The European Parliament can’t disapprove of individual candidates, only the entire Commission.

  • If it grants approval, the Council appoints the new Commission by a qualified majority.

Ii the european commission vi
II. The European Commission VI.

  • As far as the track record of Commission members is concerned, in recent years the appointed Commissioner have generally been politicians who have held high office in their home countries.

  • Previously, in the larger Member States, who had the right to nominate two Commissioners each, the government and the opposition usually shared the two seats, while in the smaller Member States, the nominee generally belonged to the leading party of the government office.

  • Now, with the Nice system of ‘one Member State – One Commissioner’, the members of the Commission are in practice nominated from the ranks of leading politicians of government parties.

  • Upon their appointment, members of the Commission pledge to perform their duties independently of their national governments and the Council and to abide by the interests of the Community.

  • Therefore, once appointed, Commissioners can no longer be considered to be representatives of their respective governments.

  • The Commission is appointed for a period of five years (mandate can be expired).

  • The Commission can only be required to resign if the European Parliament passes a motion of censure.

  • The Council has no right to dismiss the Commission; only the European Parliament can do so, with the majority of two thirds of its members present.

  • Although the Parliament has never dissolved the Commission, there have been a number of precedents for votes of no confidence.

Iii the administrative structure of the commission i
III. The administrative structure of the Commission I.

  • The administrative structure of the Commission is composed of the Directorates-General (DGs), Services and Offices.

  • In the past, the Commissioners’ work was assisted by 24 DGs and 18 other administrative units.

  • However, the Commission appointed in September 1999 and headed by Romano Prodi modified the former structure of the institution; the number of administrative units was decreased from 42 to 36, and the DGs’ traditional identification with numbers was brought to an end (The Commission’s organigramme currently included 37 administrative units.

  • All them operate under the respective Commissioner’s supervision.

  • The administrative units report to the Commissioners, some of who are responsible for one DG or Service, some for several.

  • The allocation of the Directorates General and Services to the Commissioners takes place in the framework of the division of the portfolios.

  • The DGs and Services are further divided into Directorates, which in turn are divided into Units.

  • The Commission has a staff of about 20000 people.

  • Considering the 450-million strong population of the Union, this staff is relatively small, bearing in mind the extensive responsibilities of the Commission.

Iii the administrative structure of the commission i i
III. The administrative structure of the Commission II.

  • The Cabinets of Commissioners, consisting of staff working directly to support their respective Commissioner’s work, play a key role in linking the Commissioners and the Commission services.

  • Cabinet members are closely linked to the person in office, as they are appointed by the Commissioners themselves.

  • Some of the cabinet members come from the same country as the Commissioner, often former colleagues, but nowadays they are mostly Commission officials.

  • The Head if Cabinet in most cases of the same nationality as the Commissioner, but then the Deputy must come from another country.

  • The main tasks of the cabinets are the followings:

    -to liaise with Commission services,

    - prepare decisions, ensure coordination among Commissioners (this is mainly done in the framework of

    weekly meetings of heads of cabinet, where the next meeting of the College of Commissioners is prepared),

    - support and organise public appearances by the relevant Commissioner,

    - as well as maintain links with the Commissioner’s home country.

  • Overall, cabinets have considerable informal influence on the activities or Commissioners.

Iv the competence of the european commission i
IV. The competence of the European Commission I.

  • The founding Treaties of the Communities entrust the Commission with a wide-range of responsibilities that involve making proposals (preparing decisions and initiating legislation), as well as executive, decision-making, control and representative functions.

  • The Commission initiates legislation in the areas falling within the Community’s competence.

  • Because of its right of initiative and presentation of legislative proposals, it has the exclusive right to submit legislative proposals to the decision-making and legislative institutions, namely the Council and the Parliament.

  • The Commission main aim is to align the provisions of Community legislation with the Treaties.

  • In certain areas, the Commission also has limited secondary decision-making and legislative powers. In the areas (e. g. competition, agriculture, trade) assigned by the Treaties or by the decisions of the legislators (the Council or the Parliament), it has the right to set certain legal norms.

  • In specific cases, the Commission is also responsible for implementing the decisions and legislation adopted by the EU’s legislative bodies, namely the Parliament and the Council.

  • The Commission as the institution responsible for the implementation of Community objectives, also has certain executive duties and a monitoring function in several areas (e.g. competition).

Iv the competence of the european commission ii
IV. The competence of the European Commission II.

  • The Commission is responsible for the preparation of the draft budget and for its presentation to the Council and to the Parliament.

  • As the executive body of the Union, it manages the adopted budget, for example running and monitoring Community programmes and Community funds.

  • As the guardian Treaties, it ensures that the provisions of the Treaties and acts adopted by the Community institutions are applied properly, both in public and private spheres.

  • It may institute legal proceedings against those Member States and enterprises that fail to comply with the Treaties or with their obligations under Community legislation. First, it calls upon the State or company in question to redress the situation and, as a last resort, brings them before the European Court of Justice.

  • The Commission’s scope of duties involves filling regular reports on the economic, social and legal situation of the Union as well as submitting annual reports on its own activities.

  • The Commission represents the Union on the international stage and negotiates international, mainly trade agreements falling within the Community’s competence (e. g. association or cooperation agreements).

  • It represents the European Communities at the meetings of certain international organisations, such as the OECD and the WTO.

  • The Commission is accountable to the Parliament, which may even dissolve the College of Commissioners with a two-thirds majority vote. The Commission is obliged to explain and justify its actions to the Parliament and, when requested, must provide written or oral answers to questions by the MEPs.

V the european council
V. The European Council

  • The European Council – the body composed of the Heads of State or Government of the Member States and the President of the European Commission – functions as the top organisation of the Union.

  • The European Council didn’t feature in the Community’s first Treaties. It evolved from the practice of organising meetings of the Heads of State or Government of the Member States, which became regular occurrences following the Paris Summit of December 1974.

  • The European Council was formalised by the Maastricht Treaty, which stipulated that is should meet at least twice a year, but didn’t define it as an institution in its own right.

  • The European Council’s meeting are also attended by the President of the Commission. The Member States’ Ministers of Foreign Affairs and a Member of the Commission assist the European Council’s work.

  • The European Council settles vital, strategic issues and defines the general political guidelines for the development of the EU. But it doesn’t enact any laws, this is the exclusive responsibility of the Council.

  • The main target of the European Council is to forge political compromises among the Member States.

  • The European Council holds four regular meetings every year (usually in March, June, October or November and December) but – if necessary – more extraordinary, or so-called informal meetings are held. European Council meetings used to be held in the country holding the Presidency, but according to the Declaration to the Treaty of Nice from 2002 on, each Presidency had to hold at least one European Council meeting in Brussels and, once the number of Member States reached 18, all European Council meeting were to be held in Brussels.

Vi the council of the european union i
VI. The Council of the European Union I.

  • The Council of the European Union is the Union’s principal, but not exclusive , intergovernmental decision-making and legislative body.

  • The Council functions as the institution representing the interests of the Member States, where they can put forward their points of view.

  • The Council’s decisions are adopted as the common result of the Member States’ national interests.

  • The Council is composed of one representative at ministerial level from each Member State, usually the Minister responsible for the relevant subject; but it is for the Member States to decide who to delegate to the Council meetings.

  • The Council is often referred to as the Council of Ministers.

  • The name of the Council of Ministers varies, depending on which ministers are to meet.

  • The bodies of the competent ministers are the so-called sectoral Councils.

  • For example, Financial Ministers (responsible for economic and financial affairs) meet as the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN), while the Ministers of Agriculture meet as the Agriculture Council.

  • The Council of Foreign Ministers, also known as the General Affairs Council, falls into a separate category: it deals with politically more significant, general, horizontalor sensitive issues and often also functions as an appeal forum for the sectoral Councils.

Vi the council of the european union ii
VI. The Council of the European Union II.

  • Modification to the structure of the Council of Ministers was introduced by the Seville European Council of 21-22 June 2002, which changed the name of the General Affairs Council to General Affairs and External Relations Council and merged various configurations to reduce the number of sectoral Councils to nine.

  • In order to best organise proceedings with regard to the two main areas of activity covered by this configuration, it has to hold separate meetings dealing respectively with:

    a) Preparation for and follow-up to the European Council, institutional and administrative questions,

    horizontal dossiers which affect several of the Union’s policies and any dossier entrusted to it by the

    European Council;

    b) the whole of the Union’s external actions, namely Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), European

    Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), foreign trade, development cooperation and humanitarian aid.

  • The Council configurations were reduced by the Seville decisions to the following 9:

    - General Affairs and External Relations;

    - Economic and Financial Affairs (including the budget);

    - Justice and Home Affairs;

    - Employment Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs;

    - Competitiveness (Internal market, Industry and Research, including tourism);

    - Transport, Telecommunications and Energy;

    - Agriculture and Fisheries;

    - Environment;

    - Education, Youth and Culture (including audiovisual affairs).

Vi the council of the european union iii
VI. The Council of the European Union III.

  • It was agreed in Seville that several ministers would be able to participate as full members of the same Council configuration.

  • In the case of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, each government would be represented at the different meetings by the Minister or State Secretary of his choice.

  • The significance of this is that certain Member States delegate their minister (or state secretary) for European affairs to replace or accompany their foreign affairs minister at meetings of general affairs, while external relations meetings fall exclusively within the competence of the foreign minister.

  • The General Affairs and External Relations Council, Agriculture and Fisheries Council, the Economic and Monetary Affairs Council usually meet once a month, the Justice and Home Affairs Council almost on a monthly basis, while the other Councils meet less frequently, around two to six times a year.

  • The Council is based in Brussels, but meets at fixed intervals (in April, June and October) in Luxembourg.

  • In addition, so-called informal meetings are held in the country which holds the office of the Presidency.

  • The smooth running of the Council and the Presidency is assisted by the General Secretariat with approximately 2500 officials.

  • The main task of the General Secretariat is to prepare the meetings of the Council and the related bodies.

  • It is headed by the Secretary-General, an independent official responsible for foreign and security policy affairs. The Deputy Secretary-General manages the General Secretariat’s day-today work, i.e. the preparation of Council meetings.

Vi the council of the european union iv
VI. The Council of the European Union IV.

  • Although the Ministers meet more and more frequently, their meeting cannot ensure continuity.

  • The 1-2 day long meetings of the sectoral Councils usually scheduled every 1 or 3 months cannot possibly ensure the adequate preparation and comprehensive discussion of the decisions taken.

  • Two bodies were established to assist and prepare the work of the Council (COREPER I and COREPER II).

  • The Committee of Permanent Representatives, which consists of the ambassadors, i.e. the heads of the permanent representations of the Member States in Brussels, or their deputies.

  • COREPER’s main task is to try to reconcile and harmonise the positions of the Member States on the questions discussed at this expert, diplomatic level and to prepare the specific recommendations to be discussed by the Ministers at political level. COREPER is responsible for maintaining communication between the governments of the Member States and the institutions of the Union (principally the European Commission) and for mediation and coordination between Community and national administration.

  • COREPER II is the forum of the Permanent Representatives, while COREPER I consists of their deputies. COREPER II deals with issues of a political nature, while COREPER I is responsible for issues of a more technical nature.

  • COREPER II is responsible for preparing the General Affairs and External Relations Councils, Economic and Monetary Affairs Councils, as well as Justice and Home Affairs Councils, while COREPER I is given responsibility for all other Council bodies.

  • Council meetings always belongs to COREPER, where the draft agenda and proposals for decisions for the ministers are formally adopted (mostly without reopening the debate on issues already dealt with in the Political and Security Committee, for example).

Vi the council of the european union v
VI. The Council of the European Union V.

  • Due to the increased workload and frequency of meetings of COREPER, there was a need to establish bodies preparing the work of COREPER.

  • The so-called Antici Group prepares COREPER II proceedings and conducts important preparatory work for European Council meetings. The so-called Mertens Group fulfils the same role but for COREPER I.

  • Both group are made up of diplomats working at the Permanent Representations.

  • The work carried out by COREPER and related bodies has become so extensive and technical that Member States’ Permanent Representations in Brussels have had significantly enlarged. Generally in addition to the senior diplomats, experts of the competent Ministries of the Member States are also delegated to the Permanent Representations in Brussels.

  • The work of the Council and COREPER is assisted by another 250 permanent and ad hoc Council working groups, arranged according to specific subjects.

  • The members of these working groups are officials from the Member States’ government offices.

  • Members of working groups prepare the decision plans at a technical level to be discussed later by the Council and COREPER.

  • The recommendations discussed in the working groups are first forwarded to COREPER and then to the Council.

  • If agreement is reached on an issue at a lower level, the Council of Ministers generally makes its decisions without further deliberation. The work of COREPER and the working groups of the Council permits the Council of Ministers to deal with the purely political aspects of the issues discussed.

  • Technical discussions and coordination are mostly settled at the lower levels.

Vii i the presidency of the council
VIII. The Presidency of the Council

  • The Presidency of the Council plays a vital part in the organisation of the work of institution.

  • It rotates between the Member States every six months.

  • The presiding Member State convenes the Council, presides not only over the Council of Ministers but also over other bodies related to the Council (European Council, COREPER, working groups), oversees the voting and signs the adopted acts.

  • The Presidency plays a decisive role in the arrangement of the agenda and in the preparation of voting, it has significant influence over the issues discussed.

  • The State holding the Presidency of the Council plays a key role in the international representation of the Union as well as in presenting the Union’s position in the field of foreign policy.

  • The Presidency is a highly prestigious office for the Member States; therefore, the national governments make major preparations and serious efforts to fulfill their presidential duties successfully.

  • According to the decision taken in December 2004, from 2007 onwards, the Member States assume the responsibilities of the Presidency in groups of three for periods of 18 months.

  • Within every such group of three, each Member States still holds the Presidency for six months according to a system of rotation.

  • The point of having 18 month cycles is to enable the countries to coordinate their programmes, which ensures predictability and continuity. During the six months all duties related to the Presidency are carried out by one Member State holding the Presidency-in-office, while the other two members in the group help the country in question run the Presidency according to the common programme.

Ix the voting system in the council i
IX. The voting system in the Council I.

  • The Council may adopt its decisions by three different types of voting: by a simple majority, by a qualified majorityor unanimously (consensus).

  • The Treaty in effect identifies which voting system is to be applied in each case.

  • The Member States may vote by a simple majority in the Council only in relation to procedural issues or when no other system is stipulated by the Treaties.

  • For substantive matters, such as legislative acts, a qualified majority or unanimity is required.

  • In the past, the Council decided almost exclusively on a unanimous basis (consensus); however as a result of the amendments of the Treaty, in the vast majority of cases the Member States now decide by qualified majority vote (QMV).

  • However, even today, many of the most significant decisions must be adopted unanimously.

  • In practice nevertheless, the voting procedure often doesn’t take place, as the President in office generally aims at reaching a consensus during the course of the meetings (even when the issue discussed could be carried out by a qualified majority vote).

  • If a consensus is reached, the President asserts the lack of objections and the issue is considered decided.

  • In the case of qualified majority voting, the votes of the Member States carry different weight according to their population.

Ix the voting system in the council ii
IX. The voting system in the Council II.

  • The weighting of the votes however is not in direct proportion to the population – the actual weightings are the result of political deals.

  • The system clearly favours Member States with a smaller population, but doesn’t take into account economic, political or territorial differences at all.

  • Before the enlargement of 1 May 2004, the Member States shared a total of 87 votes. When a Commission proposal was involved, a qualified majority was obtained when at least 62 votes supported the decision.

  • In other cases, these 62 votes had to be cast by at least 10 Member States.

  • In the amendment of the founding Treaties the fields that required a qualified majority decisions were increased and unanimous decisions were reduced.

  • The Single European Act stated explicitly when decisions should be adopted by a qualified majority and when they required unanimity.

  • The „Ioannina Compromise” was introduced by the pressure of Great Britain during the 1995 enlargement round.

  • While 26 votes were required to oppose the adoption of a decision, the casting between 23 and 25 votes against a decision necessitated further negotiations („a blocking minority”).

  • This meant that, although the qualified majority theoretically required 62 votes, a proposal could only be adopted by a qualified majority with 65 votes.

Ix the voting system in the council iii
IX. The voting system in the Council III.

  • The 23 votes of blocking minority reflected the situation before the 1995 enlargement round.

  • This was precisely the British intention, namely that, even with the accession of the 3 new Member States, the same number of countries would be needed to block a decision.

  • The decision could not be adopted until the Council managed to find a solution that could be agreed to with 65 votes.

  • With the new weightings of the votes following of May 2004, the Ioannina compromise became pointless.

  • The enlargement of May 2004 brought changes in qualified majority voting and the weighting of the votes.

  • The issue was settled by the Treaty of Nice, which set the institutional framework of a Union 27 and defined a new voting system.

  • The Treaty of Nice was then amended by the Accession Treaty of the 10 new entrants, which stipulated how the system should work with 25 members until the accession of Romania and Bulgaria (that were already taken into consideration in the Treaty of Nice).

  • One of the principal aims of the Treaty of Nice was to make the operation of the Council more effective, by extending qualified majority voting to new areas, thus narrowing the range of issues settled by unanimity, and by adjusting the number of votes required for a qualified majority to the needs of an enlarged Union.

  • The restriction on unanimous voting in the enlarged Union became necessary because, even with 15 Member States, it was difficult to reach full consensus, while with 27 Member States it is even more problematic.

Ix the voting system in the council i v
IX. The voting system in the Council IV.

  • The Treaty of Nice, similarly to the previous ones, extended qualified majority voting to 30 further areas.

  • Nonetheless, several key issues of integration (e.g. taxation, important fields of social policy, and the bulk of justice and home affairs) continued to require unanimity.

  • The modification of the current weighting of qualified majority votes was essential as sustaining the former system after enlargement could have resulted in certain imbalances.

  • The former weighting of votes strongly favoured Member States with smaller populations.

  • With the successive accession of countries with small populations (and the majority of applicant countries fell into this category), that system could have led to a decision adopted by a qualified majority but representing less then half of the Union’s population.

  • In the interest of Member States with larger populations, the weighting of votes had to be modified prior to the accession of the applicant countries; and the Treaty of Nice accomplished just that.

  • The new system of qualified majority voting was introduced on 1 January 2005.

  • It was important to be stipulated in the 10 accession treaties what the allocations of votes would be between 1 May 2004 and 1 January 2005.

  • In this end, it was decided that the new members would get the same number of votes as old members with a similar population, which increased the total number of votes from 87 to 124, and the qualified majority from 62 to 88.

Ix the voting system in the council v
IX. The voting system in the Council V.

  • The Treaty of Accession finally stipulated that the Nice system of voting would be introduced on 1 November 2004, together with the new Nice rules on the Commission.

  • The transitional period, therefore, only lasted six month from May to November.

  • According to the Treaty of Accession, the new system of qualified majority voting introduced by the Treaty of Nice entered into force on 1 November 2004.

  • The new system of qualified majority voting introduced by the Treaty of Nice established a kind of triple majority based on the following:

    1. The central element of the new system was the re-weighting of votes. In order to underline the differences

    in the size of population of the Member States, the former weights between 2 and 10 are extended into a

    wider band between 3 and 29, but maintaining the favoured position of smaller countries. Accordingly, the

    former system – in which out of the total 87 votes, 62 were required for the adoption of a decision - was also

    modified. In the Union of 27 Member States, out of the total of 345 votes, 255 are required for a qualified

    majority, thus the threshold of a blocking minority is set at 91 votes.

    2. When an issue concerns Commission proposals or initiatives, the qualified majority must also represent

    over half of the Member States. When the voting doesn’t relate to a Commission initiative, two-thirds of

    the Member States must support the decision to be adopted. The adoption of a decision proposed by the

    Commission in the present Union of 27 requires that at least 14 countries vote in favour of a Commission-

    initiated decision.

    3. ‘Population filter’ was also introduced, which functions as - a security monitoring mechanism – a blocking

    option. This entails the possibility for a Member of the Council request the verification that the qualified

    majority represents at least 62 % of the total population of the Union. If this conditions is not met, the

    decision won’t be adopted.

X institutional changes affecting the european commission in the treaty of lisbon
X. Institutional changes affecting the European Commission in the Treaty of Lisbon

  • The Treaty of Lisbon didn’t bring about fundamental changes in the role and competences of the European Commission.

  • The Treaty of Lisbon stipulates that the European Council has to propose to the European Parliament a candidate for the Presidency of the Commission „taking into account the elections to the European Parliament”.

  • Although the composition of the European Commission isn’t depending on the outcome of the EP elections, as other members of the Commission are nominated by the Member States – obviously on the basis of domestic political balance (probably proposing a leading figure from the political forces in power), which leads to a politically mixed Commission – a closer political link and responsibility between the Parliament and Commission is established.

  • According to the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Parliamentno longer just „approves” but „elects” the Commission President-designate (on the European Council’s qualified majority proposal).

  • New system of rotation will be introduced by the Treaty from 2014. From this time on, the number of Commissioners will equal two thirds of the number of Member States, unless the European Council alters that by a unanimous decision.

  • The rotation mechanism must respect the equality of Member States.

  • First of all, each successive Commission must be so composed as to reflect satisfactorily the demographic and geographical range of all Member States.

  • Secondly the difference between the total number of terms of office held by the Commissioners nominated by any given pair of Member States may never be more than one.

Xi institutional changes affecting the european council in the treaty of lisbon
XI. Institutional changes affecting the European Council in the Treaty of Lisbon

  • According to the Treaty of Lisbon the European Council became an independent institution and was detached it from the Council of Ministers.

  • The European Council hasn’t got legislative power of its own. Its main task is to provide the Union with the necessary impetus for its development and to define the general political directions and priorities thereof.

  • The European Council has got a standing President, but no administrative staff its own (its work is assisted by the Secretariat General of the Council).

  • The European Council elects its President, by a qualified majority, for a term of two and a half years, renewable once.

  • The President doesn’t hold national office; thus the current practice of a Head of State or Government in office presiding over the European Council disappears.

  • The task of the President of the European Council is to chair it and drive forward its work, guarantee the preparation and continuity of its work and ensure - at his level (that is without prejudice to the powers of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy) - the external representation of the Union.

  • Decisions of the European Council are taken by consensus, except where the Treaties provide otherwise (for example in the case of electing its President, when it acts by a qualified majority).

  • During voting, a Member State is capable to cast votes on behalf another Member State. Abstention by a member doesn’t prevent the European Council from making a decision.

Xii institutional changes affecting the council and the council presidency in the treaty of lisbon
XII. Institutional changes affecting the Council and the Council Presidency in the Treaty of Lisbon

  • The Treaty of Lisbon defines the Council of Ministers as the institution – jointly with the European Parliament – exercising legislative and budgetary functions, which also carries out policy-making and coordinating functions as laid down in the Treaties.

  • In order to ensure greater transparency of Union decision-making, the Treaty of Lisbon aims to make Council meetings public when it deliberates and votes on a draft legislative act.

  • The Presidency based on the basis of equal rotation is maintained by the Treaty of Lisbon.

  • The Presidency of Council formations are held by groups of three Member States for a period of 18 months in a predetermined order.

  • These groups of three draw up taking into consideration the differences between Member States and with a view to a geographical balance.

  • Within each group, the three Member States holds the Presidency of Council formations in rotation for period of six months.

  • The other two members of the grouphelps the Presidency in Treaty, is an exception: it is not chaired by a Member State minister, but instead by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

  • It should be noted that the current nine Council’s configuration was maintained but the General Affairs and External Relations Council was divided into a General Affairs Council and a Foreign Affairs Council.

Xiii the voting system in council in the treaty of lisbon i
XIII. The voting system in Council in the Treaty of Lisbon I.

  • The main change brought by the Treaty of Lisbon concerned the decision making process.

  • Firstly, the default voting method for the Council is now qualified majority voting, except where the treaties require a different procedure (e.g. a unanimous vote).

  • In practice, this means that qualified majority voting has been extended to many new policy areas (e.g. immigration and culture).

  • From 1 November 2014, a new voting method will be introduced - double majority voting (55% of Member States, 65 % of population) by the Treaty of Lisbon.

  • Another concession was made to Poland by creating the possibility for any Member State to request Nice-type qualified majority voting on an issue until 31 March 2017.

  • In addition, the transitional rule on the blocking majority – originally foreseen until 2014 – was also extended until 31 March 2017, enabling Member States forming 75 % of the necessary blocking minority (either population-wise or number-wise) demand a decision and negotiations thereon to be postponed.

  • This double majority formula will also be applied in the European Council when it acts by a qualified majority, with the obvious proviso that the President of the European Council and the President of the Commission do not take part in the vote.

  • The key novelty of the double majority formula is the elimination of the weighting of the votes, while the limits of supporting Member States and population are slightly raised (from 50% + 1 to 55%, and from 62% to 65%).

Xiii the voting system in council in the treaty of lisbon ii
XIII. The voting system in Council in the Treaty of Lisbon II.

  • To be passed by the Council, proposed EU laws will then require a majority not only of the EU’s member countries (55 %) but also of the EU population (65 %).

  • This will reflect the legitimacy of the EU as a union of both peoples and nations.

  • It will make EU lawmaking both more transparent and more effective.

  • And it will be accompanied by a new mechanism (similar to the “Ioannina compromise”) enabling a small number of member governments (close to a blocking minority) to demonstrate their opposition to a decision.

  • Where this mechanism is used, the Council will be required to do everything in its power to reach a satisfactory solution between the two parties, within a reasonable time period.

  • With the disappearance of weighted votes, small and medium-sized countries will loose their weight, while the increased importance of population limits will add to the influence of bigger countries.

  • However, considering that currently there are 6 larger and 21 medium-sized or smaller countries in the Union, while at least 15 Member States are needed to adopt a decision, the balance of interests between smaller and bigger countries seems guaranteed.

  • The more muscle that larger Member States have due to their population will play a more important role in the blocking of decisions: while three big ones united with just one small country or four big countries will easily be able to block a decision, smaller Member States will have to forge much wider alliances and coalitions if they want to establish a sufficient percentage population-wise.

Xiv the high representative of the union for foreign affairs and security policy
XIV. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

  • A key provision of the Treaty of Lisbon is the creation of the office of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

  • The High Representative is also one of the Vice-Presidents of the Commission and the President of the Foreign Affairs Council.

  • The High Representative is appointed by the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, with the agreement of the President of the Commission.

  • The High Representative will also take part in the work of the European Council.

  • The double hatting (between Council and Commission) is due to the fact that, even with the abolition of the three-pillar structure, the area of Common Foreign and Security Policy remains a Council Monopoly, with the Commission playing a limited role.

  • The double-hatted nature of the job is demonstrated by the fact that the High Representative will only be bound by the rules governing the Commission in her work when acting as a member of the Commission, and that if the Commission resigns or is dismissed, she will only lose his mandate as a Commissioner but keep his job in the Council.

  • The High Representative will be assisted in her work by the European External Action Service. The Service, which will operate in cooperation with the diplomatic services of the Member States, will consist of officials from the Council Secretariat General, or the Commission or seconded from the Member States’ services.

  • The organisational and operational arrangements of the European External Action Service will be decided by the Council on the proposal of the High Representative, after consulting the European Parliament and obtaining the Commission’s agreement.

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