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The 13th COSAC Report

As I did already begin listing the EU’s strategy documents here, I would next add a link to the 13th Bi-annual Report of COSAC: “Developments in European Union Procedures and Practices Relevant to Parliamentary Scrutiny“, which document adds to democratic accountability, and dates back to May-June 2010. This document reflects the changes made by the Treaty of Lisbon, and is structured in the following way:

Chapter 1: The new powers of national parliaments after the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon

1.1.   Review of regulations adopted (dealing mainly with: constitutional and legal provisions and parliamentary standing orders)

1.2.   The new powers of the national parliaments in the EU decision making process (dealing with: monitoring the EU institutions, compliance with the principle of subsidiarity, political monitoring of Europol, evaluation of Eurojust, participation in the simplified revision of the Treaties (Passarelle Clause), applications for accession to the EU, interparliamentary cooperation between national parliaments and the European Parliament)

1.3.   Replies of the European Parliament

Chapter 2: The future role of COSAC

2.1. COSAC’s strengths and weaknesses (included debates on the COSAC Agenda; contributions and conclusions; different aspects of the COSAC meetings)

2.2. The future role of COSAC (included Agenda; EU Draft Acts; COSAC-coordinated subsidiarity checks; COSAC and political groups; resources of COSAC; conferences)

2.3. Future procedure for COSAC meetings (their format; other procedural issues)

In the beginning, the Report observes that after the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the majority of Parliaments/Chambers has approved, or will approve in the near future, regulations to adjust their national systems to the new Treaty. The Report mostly reflects the reactions of the national parliaments on the changes brought by the Treaty of Lisbon.

As for monitoring the activities of the EU institutions, the Report focuses on: (1) the different activities that are monitored; (2) the selection process of monitored activities; (3) the parliamentary bodies involved in the selection process; (4) the Government’s role in the monitoring procedure; and (5) the resources at the disposal of each Parliament/Chamber for this purpose. As such monitoring is not compulsory, the Member States select the activities and documents monitored (the author of this posting is of opinion that the Member States are still bound directly by EU law, not by the selections of other Member States). It still seems important that the Member States are free to determine both the criteria, as well as the parliamentary body to select the documents to be monitored.

The Report brings out a clear distinction between two simplified Treaties’ revision procedures (Passarelle), based on Article 48.6 TEU, and Article 48.7 TEU. The difference is that under Article 48.6 TEU, the amendment does not enter into force “until it is approved by the Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements”, i.e. the procedure from a Parliament’s point of view does not differ from an ordinary revision of the Treaties:

Simplified revision procedures

6. The Government of any Member State, the European Parliament or the Commission may submit to the European Council proposals for revising all or part of the provisions of Part Three of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union relating to the internal policies and action of the Union.

The European Council may adopt a decision amending all or part of the provisions of Part Three of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The European Council shall act by unanimity after consulting the European Parliament and the Commission, and the European Central Bank in the case of institutional changes in the monetary area. That decision shall not enter into force until it is approved by the Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.

The decision referred to in the second subparagraph shall not increase the competences conferred on the Union in the Treaties.

The procedure foreseen in Article 48.7 TEU requires a Parliament/Chamber to take an initiative of its own, in case it opposes a decision to be taken by the European Council:

7. Where the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union or Title V of this Treaty provides for the Council to act by unanimity in a given area or case, the European Council may adopt a decision authorising the Council to act by a qualified majority in that area or in that case. This subparagraph shall not apply to decisions with military implications or those in the area of defence.

Where the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union provides for legislative acts to be adopted by the Council in accordance with a special legislative procedure, the European Council may adopt a decision allowing for the adoption of such acts in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure.

Any initiative taken by the European Council on the basis of the first or the second subparagraph shall be notified to the national Parliaments. If a national Parliament makes known its opposition within six months of the date of such notification, the decision referred to in the first or the second subparagraph shall not be adopted. In the absence of opposition, the European Council may adopt the decision.

For the adoption of the decisions referred to in the first and second subparagraphs, the European Council shall act by unanimity after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, which shall be given by a majority of its component members.  

The Bi-annual Reports are available on the COSAC website at: http://www.cosac.eu/en



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