Sunday

22nd May 2022

EU states and MEPs clash over international talks

  • EU Council. The Lisbon Treaty has led to a series of fresh tussles between the EU institutions (Photo: Council of European Union)

Member states are considering taking the EU Parliament to court if it does not back down on demands for new powers on EU foreign policy and international agreements, EUobserver has learnt.

Ambassadors representing member states at a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday (13 October) signaled their discontent over an inter-institutional agreement between the European Commission and the EU legislature which may give fresh powers to euro-deputies, especially when it comes to international negotiations on behalf of the EU.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The draft report, according to an analysis by the council of ministers' legal services, could lead to a stand-off between EU institutions if adopted as such next week in Strasbourg.

"The court option is not off the table," one EU source said.

Ambassadors will come back to the matter in their meeting next Wednesday, following the MEP's vote in the plenary.

The crux of the matter is to what extent MEPs can be part of EU delegations to multilateral and bilateral meetings and negotiations with other countries. According to the draft, the Parliament wants to have its representatives guaranteed participation in all multilateral, but also bilateral agreements "of particular political importance" - for instance on trade or fisheries.

The EU commission for its part is ready to allow MEPs on board of EU delegations, whenever "logistically, politically and diplomatically" possible.

There would be no automatism, however. The commission wants to avoid situations such as the climate change summit in Copenhagen last December, when 49 MEPs went along, which made it virtually impossible for the head of the delegation to have an overview over what is being said and done on behalf of the EU.

The commission's position is being further complicated by the council's own bid to push a role for the rotating EU presidency in international negotiations - for instance on climate change - despite the Lisbon Treaty clearly stating that the commission is to lead negotiations in the name of the 27 strong bloc.

Portuguese centre-right MEP Paulo Rangel, the euro-deputy in charge of formulating the Parliament's standpoint, was not surprised by the council's opposition.

"There is no problem with the EU commission, the problem is in the Council, they didn't want to participate in negotiations of the inter-institutional agreement. So it was expected they would have reservations, because normally the Council doesn't see happily that other institutions are co-operating," Mr Rangel told EUobserver over the phone from Madeira.

He does not believe that member states will actually take the Parliament to court, but says they are trying to limit the new powers MEPs have acquired in the new treaty.

"Every institution interprets in its own way their new powers given by the Lisbon Treaty and tries to maximise their positions. I don't think this means there is a conflict within the institutions," he said.

"In every state, international organisation, not to mention the EU, the Parliament has the power to control or review the external policy of the executive bodies. It doesn't mean we want to lead negotiations on external relation, but we do have the right to control the way they exercise these powers. According to the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament has the right to approve international agreements and we need all the information necessary to this aim," he argued.

Mr Rangel insisted that MEPs are not trying to take over competences of national governments in the field of foreign affairs: "We follow only foreign policy that is in the hands of the EU, there is no interference in the national dominion of external relations."

The fact that another major foreign policy package – regarding the set-up of the EU's External Action Service (EEAS) - is due to be adopted next week is a "mere coincidence" and the two issues are not linked, he added.

Some room for manouevre still remains, but it will be up to political leaders in Parliament to negotiate, he added.

In a speech on Wednesday, EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso stressed the "special partnership" between his institution and the EU legislature and referred to the upcoming signature of the framework agreement in Strasbourg next week. " Let us not miss the opportunity to make it a powerful demonstration of this new partnership spirit," he said.

Member states threaten MEPs and commission with legal case

Member states have threatened to take the European Parliament and Commission to court over what it calls the "illegal" provisions of an inter-institutional agreement which gives MEPs extra powers on international negotiations and greater access to classified EU documents.

EU lobbies Hungary to break oil sanctions deadlock

After the EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen's Budapest trip, Hungary suggested it wants EU funds to offset the extra costs from receiving different oil sources, and the increased energy prices the planned Russian oil embargo entails.

Political groups shun far-right pro-Kremlin MEP

French MEP Thierry Mariani from the far-right Identity and Democracy Group is spearheading a report in the parliament's foreign affairs committee. The socialists are boycotting it.

Opinion

Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine - the case for granting EU candidacy

Granting EU candidacy status to Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine will firmly anchor their ties with Brussels — and enable the EU to secure its place in the Black Sea region, connecting Europe to China and energy-rich Central Asia, bypassing Russia.

Opinion

The EU Parliament Covid inquiry: the questions MEPs must ask

A basic lack of transparency around the EU's vaccines procurement negotiations has prevented effective public and parliamentary scrutiny. It has also made it impossible to answer some of the key questions we put forward here.

News in Brief

  1. UK to send 'hundreds' of migrants to Rwanda each year
  2. Norwegian knife attacks were domestic dispute
  3. Sweden hits back at Turkey's 'disinformation' in Nato bid
  4. Germany's Schröder gives up one of two Russia jobs
  5. G7 countries pledge €18bn in financial aid for Ukraine
  6. Italian unions strike in protest over military aid for Ukraine
  7. Russia cuts gas supply to Finland
  8. Half of Gazprom's clients have opened rouble accounts

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. What Europe still needs to do to save its bees
  2. Remembering Falcone: How Italy almost became a narco-state
  3. Economic worries and Hungary on the spot Next WEEK
  4. MEPs urge sanctioning the likes of ex-chancellor Schröder
  5. MEPs call for a more forceful EU response to Kremlin gas cut
  6. Catalan leader slams Pegasus use: 'Perhaps I'm still spied on'
  7. More EU teams needed to prosecute Ukraine war crimes
  8. French EU presidency struggling on asylum reforms

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us