Monday

24th Sep 2018

EU states ready for tussle with MEPs on lawmaking

  • The Lisbon Treaty, which made a distinction between a delegated and an implementing act, but without clearly defining the criteria (Photo: European Commission)

EU ambassadors in Brussels adopted a position on Wednesday (6 December) to start talks with the European Parliament that may help reduce the number of future deadlocks in legislative files.

In EU jargon, the negotiations will be about setting up 'delineation criteria' to determine when a follow-up bill should be a delegated act or an implementing act.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Ambassadors in Brussels for national governments adopted a negotiating mandate on Wednesday (Photo: Peter Teffer)

The confidential text, seen by this website, indicated that it may not be easy to come to an agreement.

Although determining the classification of secondary legislation sounds technical, it is highly political.

If a legal add-on is proposed as a delegated act, the parliament has a chance to veto it. If it is an implementing act, MEPs are powerless to intervene.

The distinction between delegated and implementing act is a consequence of the Lisbon treaty, which went into force in 2009.

"If I'm angry with one person, it is who the hell imagined - in the last Lisbon treaty reform - this nonsense," Green MEP Claude Turmes told a small group of journalists on Tuesday (5 December).

"It must have been somebody who has read Machiavelli," he said, referring to the 16th century Italian philosopher famous for his work The Prince.

The Luxembourgish MEP said that whenever a legislative proposal moves from the position-taking in the parliament and council to the interinstitutional negotiation format known as trilogue, there is a "constant fight between a delegated and an implementing act" - with MEPs wanting the first, and member states the second.

He said the Lisbon reform made the secondary legislation method "too divisive" and said that, at the trilogues, either the parliament or council is always "frustrated".

It is not just left-wing MEPs that are annoyed by the issue.

Centre-right Romanian MEP Marian-Jean Marinescu spoke to journalists the previous week about his negotiations with the council about new rules on civil aviation.

He said that whether details should be laid down in delegated or implementing acts was one of the four main points of disagreement, and was so disheartened that he predicted that there was a five percent chance that a deal would be reached – an estimation that turned out to be wrong, however.

Marinescu said that the council had proposed implementing acts for those parts which he thought should be delegated.

Leave it to the experts?

Through implementing acts, technical experts from member states will be writing the details – based on a commission proposal – with no role for MEPs.

"They [member states] want only the technical experts in the implementing rule, because [then] they can do whatever they want. That's the reality," he said.

"In an implementing act, they can spoil all the work we have done in the basic regulation," he said.

The space in trilogue negotiations for bickering over whether something should be an implementing or delegated act, was created by the Lisbon treaty - which is vague on distinguishing between the two.

According to the treaty's article 290, a delegated act shall be "of general application to supplement or amend certain non-essential elements of the legislative act".

Implementing acts shall be used where "uniform conditions for implementing legally binding Union acts are needed" (article 291).

"Everybody is interpreting it in different ways," said MEP Marinescu.

Last year, parliament, council, and commission agreed, as part of a wider 'interinstitutional agreement', that there should be "non-binding criteria for the application of Articles 290 and 291".

The April 2016 agreement said that the three institutions would "enter into negotiations without undue delay" to draft these criteria.

After some delays, "a good kick-off meeting" took place in Strasbourg last September, according to the office of Hungarian MEP Jozsef Szajer, one of two negotiators on behalf of the parliament.

The parliament has had a text which will serve as its negotiating mandate since 2014, and was waiting for the council to come up with a common position.

That text, which was drafted by legal experts and diplomats in the Council of the EU, was rubber-stamped by top diplomats on Wednesday.

Notably, the council document consists of two columns, with on the left side elements from a 2015 commission proposal and on the right side the comments from the council.

The parliament's criteria, suggested in the 2014 resolution, are only indirectly referred to, in the case where the commission had adopted the parliament's text.

The document showed that several parts of the commission proposal are unacceptable to the council.

For example, the commission had proposed a paragraph about delegated acts that spoke of measures "designed to lay down additional substantive rules and criteria to be met".

The council paper called it not acceptable because the category is "too wide", and would "clearly cover a wide range of measures, which currently are adopted by means of implementing acts".

Another example: one of the proposed criteria is about when member states or other entities are required by EU law to provide information.

The commission, based on the parliament resolution, said that the "types of information" should be determined through a delegated act, and that the "provision of information (that is to say the format)" should be an implementing act.

But the council found the statement on delegated acts "too general" and the one on implementing act "too restrictive".

These examples, while extremely technical or theoretical, show that the issue is about more than words, it is about power.

That means that the talks between parliament and council could be a theoretical repeat of the fights they have on an individual legislative level.

And even if agreement is reached, the criteria will be non-binding.

MEPs and states scrap over lawmaking powers

Stalled negotiations will begin again in Strasbourg over how to determine some procedures in EU lawmaking, which are ultimately about how much power the EU parliament has.

Ombudsman probes secret Council lawmaking

Emily O'Reilly has launched an inquiry into whether the EU Council, where member states are represented, allows sufficient public scrutiny of the drafting of laws.

EU parliament will not budge on office expenses

Hungarian centre-right MEP Livia Jaroka sticks to earlier decision: documents related to the minor reform of the expenses system, requested by EUobserver, should remain secret.

News in Brief

  1. ECB's Draghi set to clarify role in secretive G30 group
  2. Half of EU states at risk of missing recycling target
  3. Commission refers Poland to EU top court over rule of law
  4. Open Society Foundation takes Hungary to court
  5. EU court asked to rule on halting Brexit
  6. EU threatens Switzerland on stock trading
  7. Italy's new basic wage restricted to Italians
  8. UK tycoon offers to create pro-Brexit party

Sefcovic launches bid to be EU Commission president

Europe must have a robust foreign policy and nurture high-tech industries, Slovak EU commissioner Maros Sefcovic has said in his bid to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as the next EU commission president.

'Every group split' ahead of EU copyright vote

Political groups in the European Parliament are split about how to vote for a directive that would reform the EU's copyright regime - amid warnings that freedom of expression and creators' rights are at risk.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Missing signature gaffe for Azerbaijan gas pipeline
  2. Every major city in Europe is getting warmer
  3. No chance of meeting EU renewable goals if infrastructure neglected
  4. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  5. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  6. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  7. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  8. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  4. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  5. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  7. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  9. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  12. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us