The Commission’s right (monopoly) of initiative is a central principle in the European Community (EC). Certain matters within economic and monetary union (EMU) offer not only the Council, but individual member states, the opportunity to request proposals or recommendations.
Article 115 (ex Article 109d) of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) authorises not only the Council (Ecofin), but also a member state to request the Commission to make a recommendation or a proposal.
Here is the text of Article 115 TEC, from the latest consolidated version of the treaties, OJ 29.12.2006 C 321 E/93:
Article 115 TEC
For matters within the scope of Articles 99(4), 104 with the exception of paragraph 14, 111, 121, 122 and 123(4) and (5), the Council or a Member State may request the Commission to make a recommendation or a proposal, as appropriate. The Commission shall examine this request and submit its conclusions to the Council without delay.
Original Lisbon Treaty
In Article 2, point 99, of the original Treaty of Lisbon (ToL) the intergovernmental conference (IGC 2007) amended Article 114 and in point 100 it inserted a new Chapter 3a Provisions specific to member states whose currency is the euro (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/75).
This means that there were no specific amendments made to Article 115 TEC.
The TFEU table of equivalences confirms that Article 115 TFEU (ToL) in the original Treaty of Lisbon was to be renumbered Article 135 TFEU in the consolidated version, under the title ‘Economic and monetary policy’, renumbered Title VIII (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/214).
(In the consolidated version of the Lisbon Treaty, OJ 9.5.2008 C 115, the Tables of equivalences start on page 361, but the ToL numbers have been omitted.)
Consolidated Lisbon Treaty: TFEU
Article 135 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) is found in the consolidated versions of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, published in the Official Journal of the European Union, OJ 9.5.2008 C 115/106:
Part Three Union policies and internal actions
Title VIII Economic and monetary policy
Chapter 3 Institutional provisions
Article 135 TFEU
(ex Article 115 TEC)
For matters within the scope of Articles 121(4), 126 with the exception of paragraph 14, 138, 140(1), 140(2), first subparagraph, 140(3) and 219, the Council or a Member State may request the Commission to make a recommendation or a proposal, as appropriate. The Commission shall examine this request and submit its conclusions to the Council without delay.
The provision under study brings us into contact with the intricate so called institutional balance of the European Community. Normally, decisions under the TEC are made on proposals by the Commission. This power (monopoly) of initiative is tempered slightly by Article 208 TEC, which gives the Council the right to request the Commission to undertake any studies the Council considers desirable for the attainment of common objectives, and to submit to it any appropriate proposals.
Article 115 TEC makes one more chink in the armour of the Commission, by extending the power to request proposals or recommendations to each member state for matters within the scope of the Articles mentioned.
A request does not mean that the Commission has to make a proposal or recommendation, but it leads to an obligation to act. The Commission has a duty to examine the request and submit its conclusions to the Council without delay.
The matters subject to a request by a member state are the following:
Article 99(4) TEC: Recommendation concerning a member state whose policies are inconsistent with the broad economic policy guidelines or risk jeopardising the proper functioning of economic and monetary union (EMU).
Article 104 TEC with the exception of paragraph 14: Concerns the excessive deficit procedure.
Article 111 TEC on exchange-rate systems.
Article 121 TEC regarding convergence reports.
Article 122 TEC on the abrogation of derogations from the single currency.
Article 123(4) and (5) TEC on euro conversion rates and euro introduction.
With a single currency, the euro, decentralised economic and fiscal policies become matters of ‘common concern’ even without Article 99(1) TEC saying so.
Article 115 TEC at least offers each member state the opportunity to voice its concern officially.
The present financial turmoil and the severe economic downturn already strain the euro and many core European Community policies severely, when countries with the largest government deficits expand them further, (proposals for) protectionistic measures come in all shapes and sizes, and national administrations try to cope with cross-border problems affecting their neighbours.