27th May 2019

The Emperor's New Clothes

Today the Presidium of the European Convention is going to publish 10 new articles on the simplification of the decision-making process and two amended protocols on the role of national parliaments and so-called subsidiarity.

The proposals for simplification contain a real improvement. Here is the only (or first) area where our long-standing campaign for simplification has been fruitful. There was a very good atmosphere in the working group on simplification led by former Italian Prime Minister Guiliano Amato.

Renaming European laws

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  • JENS-PETER BONDE -"The famous alarm clock therefore looks like an additional chapter in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale, The Emperor's New Clothes." (Photo: EUobserver)

Regulations and directives will be renamed European law and European framework law. Regulations will now be used for administrative rules based on law. Decisions will continue as the administrative acts binding the recipients. Non-binding decisions will continue to be called recommendations and opinions. Most other names will disappear.

Why not take a further step and reduce all decision making to the two categories: EU laws and recommendations. Laws are binding, recommendations are not. Decisions are binding as laws but only for the recipients.

This is the handy man’s simple solution, which can easily be explained in the schools instead of the existing 30 methods, which cannot even be explained to the (ir)responsible ministers.

All other names are superfluous and only to confuse.

Binding - or not binding laws?

Is the new European framework law directly binding or not? Currently, it is only after the Court has ruled on it - normally several years later - before you can be sure it is binding. It should not be up to the court to decide whether a law is binding or not. It is the job of the voters and their representatives. When we decide we must know if a law is binding or not binding, applicable with the Court or not.

To be or not to be, that is the question.

The improvement should be further improved, and we will propose amendments for that.

Protocols oversold

The two protocols on the role of national parliaments and subsidiarity will be oversold today as a revolution in bringing the national parliaments to monitor European legislation.

The good thing is a commitment for the Commission to send all proposals to the national parliaments at the same time as they send it to the governments and the EU Parliament.

Well, this was unavoidable since the governments haven't been capable to prohibit the use of e-mails. The forward function makes it rather difficult to delay documents for many days as they did in the past. But still, it is an improvement.

Otherwise there is nothing new in line.

National parliaments can \"ring the bell\"

On subsidiarity - the principle that action should be left to the member states unless it can be better done at community level - the national parliaments will be allowed to "ring the bell" within 6 weeks of receiving a Commission proposal if they find the principle of subsidiarity has been breached.

If one third of the national parliaments raise the alarm the Commission will be obliged – please take a seat - to read their proposal one time more. This is the big revolution. The Commission will not be forced to withdraw or change the proposal, not even if two thirds (as proposed by Gisela Stuart who headed the working group on national parliaments) or all national parliaments ring the bell.

Today the national parliaments decide on their own if a proposal is outside community competence or in breach of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. The national parliament can simply decide a law on their own. The national law is only outlawed when the EU decides something different. Until then member states decide (if the EU has not got the exclusive competence to legislate).

Now the area of shared competencies will be extended and the nation states will no longer be able to govern an area when the Commission has proposed a new law.

Real power to national parliaments

Instead of a tangible competence the national parliaments receive an alarm bell, which can only be used together with 8 other parliaments in a EU with the foreseen 25 members. The result of ringing the bell will anyway be less than what the 9 parliaments can do on their own: establish the blocking minority in the Council against the proposal.

The famous alarm clock therefore looks like an additional chapter in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale, The Emperor's New Clothes.

The protocols must be radically amended if they are to give real powers to the national parliaments. We will draft those proposals and deliver them for the Convention debate March 17 and 18.

Join the debate

JENS-PETER BONDE - Danish member of the European Parliament for the EU sceptical June Movement and representing the Parliament in the European Convention. President of the SOS Democracy intergroup and the EDD group in the European Parliament and author of 40 books about European integration.


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