20th Mar 2018

EU lawmaking down 40 percent in Barroso's second term

  • MEPs have made the most of new legislative powers under the Lisbon treaty (Photo: Joel Bombardier)

The volume of EU lawmaking fell by nearly 40 percent in the last legislative term, according to an internal European Parliament paper.

The European Commission adopted 658 proposals between 2009 and 2014, down from over 1000 in the previous three terms.

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Thanks to the Lisbon Treaty, which expanded the areas where parliamentarians share law-making powers with ministers, MEPs saw their workload increase, with the European Parliament adopting 488 pieces of legislation, up from 454 files during the 2004-09 assembly.

The Environment committee passed 70 laws, the most of the Parliament's 19 standing committees, following by Economic affairs with 54.

Meanwhile, the institutions were party to a flurry of lawmaking in the final year of the Parliament, with MEPs signing off on 192 bills as the calendar wound down to May's European elections.

MEPs returned to work in September, while the current Commission team of Jose Manuel Barroso will come to the end of its mandate next week.

Under the EU treaties, MEPs and ministers have three readings at which they can reach agreement on a file. However, as lawmakers have come under increasing pressure to adopt laws faster, especially since the financial crisis, there has been a concerted move towards agreeing at first reading, after a single vote by MEPs.

Eighty-five percent of laws were agreed at first reading, while only nine laws got as far as the conciliation phase, the third reading stage.

Meanwhile, MEPs racked up 1,557 triologue meetings over the five year term.

Although the triologue process, which sees teams of officials and politicians from the EU's three institutions meet to thrash out a deal on a bill, is not recognised in the EU treaties, it has become the main fora at which EU laws are drawn up.

Triologues "have become a defining feature of the ordinary legislative procedure", the parliament paper comments.

The parliament's Economic affairs committee became the engine for a raft of new regulation for the financial sector, racking up a total of 331 triologue meetings, nearly twice as many as any other committee. Deputies also have a equal say on the banking union legislation and the eurozone's new economic governance framework.

The parliament's research estimates that the average EU law took 19 months from draft to final vote, with a typical bill agreed at first reading taking 17 months from start to finish.

More than 360 triologues were needed during the protracted negotiations on the EU's seven year budget framework which began at the start of 2014.

Observers of the EU law-making process cite the triologue meetings as the most important part of the lawmaking process.

The negotiating teams are tasked with going through the positions of the different institutions line-by-line before attempting to broker a compromise between MEPs and ministers.

Defenders of the process say that it speeds up the law-making process. Others complain that the meetings, which are held in secret and the records of which are not made public, are not transparent and leave most of the actual lawmaking in the hands of a select group of legislators.

Daniel Gueguen, a veteran lobbyist in Brussels, told this website that the procedure also means that politicians only focus on the main political priorities in a bill.

"Since the Lisbon Treaty we have seen more and more basic acts..where all the difficult issues are pushed into secondary legislation," he says. "This is the result not only of enlargements but also the systematic use of informal triologues.”


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