MEETINGS OF E. P. INSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE - PARTICIPATION OF NATIONAL PARLIAMENTS
21 and 28 September, 1998 - Brussels.
1. Meeting/Round Table of 21 September
The round table, jointly organised by the EP Committee on Legal Affairs and Citizens’ Rights and the Institutional Affairs Committee, dealt with the theme: Improving the Substantive and Formal Quality of Community Legislation. The meeting also dealt with the preparation of a submission from the EP for the informal European Council meeting in October 1998 on the political future of the EU. The Round Table was co-chaired by Mr. Willy De Clercq MEP and by Mr. Biagio de Giovanni MEP, the respective Chairmen of the two Committees.
Mr. Bernard Durkan TD, Chairman of the Joint Committee, represented Ireland.
Introducing the topic of better legislation, the rapporteur Mr. Cot MEP recognised that it was important to legislate better but the question was how to do it. The process of arriving at legislation involved significant compromises, which in turn gave rise to difficulties in implementing the legislation. One needed a strong personality to impose codification. The renumbering of the Treaties would help to make Community legislation more understandable. Commissioner Oreja said that the quality of Community legislation was not a new problem. It was often too detailed, thus obscuring its essence. Maastricht and Amsterdam constituted a balance between an increase in competences and excessive centralisation. Legislation should be as simple as possible. Directives were preferable to regulations because they gave MS a choice in how to implement them. Mr. Durkan commended the Commission for identifying the problem of excessive bureaucracy. He noted that the Joint Committee on European Affairs vetted draft EU legislation. The Joint Committee could also take the third stage of a Bill originating in the Department of Foreign Affairs. These functions were important, given the increasing belief among people that the bureaucracy had too much power. Other speakers from the national parliaments of Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, France and Greece reasserted the need to improve the quality of legislation; the desirability of discarding unnecessary rules; the need for more joint meetings between national parliaments and the EP.
In relation to guidelines with regard to the structure and drafting of Community acts, the rapporteur Ms. Palacio MEP recalled the key reference point which is Declaration 39 of the Amsterdam Treaty which states that the EP, the Council and the Commission ought a) to establish by common accord guidelines for improving the quality of the drafting of Community legislation and follow those guidelines when considering proposals for Community legislation or draft legislation, taking the internal organisational measures they deem necessary to ensure that the guidelines are properly applied and b) make their best efforts to accelerate the codification of legislative texts. She pointed out that legislative language is the fruit of negotiation and compromise and is, therefore, by its nature unclear. Speakers from the national parliaments of some countries (Italy, Denmark) spoke of measures which had been introduced in their parliaments to deal with this issue e.g. the establishment of committees for legislation, aimed at improving the quality of legislation.
As regards the preparation for the informal European Council meeting on 24 October on the political future of the EU, the rapporteur Mr. de Giovanni MEP introduced the Committee on Institutional Affairs’ Motion for a Resolution for submission to the informal Council under the headings of: i) the political future of the Union; ii) respect for the principle of subsidiarity and iii) strengthening democratic legitimacy and effectiveness. He noted, first of all, that the original deadline for the Committee to adopt a resolution for submission to the informal Council had now been put back which allowed more time to discuss it. The resolution would be considered at the Committee’s meetings on 28 September and 5 October and would be voted on at the plenary on 21 October. The issues for the informal Council were subsidiarity and democratic legitimacy. The Committee had discussed these issues with a view to making a submission to the Council. Subsidiarity was being discussed now because the situation was “fluid”: EMU, continuing debate on 3rd pillar. We should not be defensive on subsidiarity; it was a positive “thing”, part and parcel of any federal system. However, the core problem affecting the EU was the balance between the institutions. Speakers (Italy, Spain, France, Austria and others) spoke of the value of COSAC; “re-integration” before enlargement; qualified majority voting and the need for political will to make progress.
2. Meeting of 28 September.
The meeting, to which Chairmen of European Affairs Committees of EU national parliaments were invited, was attended by Mr. Bernard Durkan, TD.
The meeting was dedicated to discussing further the draft motion for a resolution financial management experience. Sutherland said that he did not think that there should be an automatic right for all countries to nominate a commissioner. However, as the EP was still not seen as credibly representing member States, it was logical that each member State should have its own commissioner. He said that Commissioners who claimed credit for supporting measures favourable to their own country were ultimately a corrosive and destructive influence.
October 8, 1998