Saturday, 14 February 2009

European Parliament: Privileges and immunities (background)

In some nightmares and some dreams the European Union may be a super-power or even a super-state, but its feet are firmly stuck in public international law. States are members, treaties form the foundations, the European Communities are international organisations and diplomatic relations are maintained inside and out.

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Diplomatic relations

Do you want to experience the public international law roots of the European Communities and the European Union?

For comparison and before you advance, read the ‘global’ codification of diplomatic law, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, available for instance here:

http://untreaty.un.org/ilc/texts/instruments/english/conventions/9_1_1961.pdf


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Current treaty

The general reference to the privileges and immunities of the European Community is Article 291 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC), in the latest consolidated version of the treaties OJEU 29.12.2006 C 321 E/172:

Article 291 TEC

The Community shall enjoy in the territories of the Member States such privileges and immunities as are necessary for the performance of its tasks, under the conditions laid down in the Protocol of 8 April 1965 on the privileges and immunities of the European Communities. The same shall apply to the European Central Bank, the European Monetary Institute, and the European Investment
Bank.


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Protocol currently

Annexed to the EC and Euratom treaties we find Protocol (No 36) on the privileges and immunities of the European Communities, OJEU 29.12.2006 C 321 E/318.


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Lisbon Treaty

Despite the existing add-ons of supranational decision-making and representative democracy somewhat enhanced, the Treaty of Lisbon still stands firmly on the foundations of treaty law and diplomatic relations, far from a federal basic law.

The Treaty of Lisbon would replace the European Community by the European Union and it would drop the historic European Monetary Institute from the text, but the substance of the treaty provision on privileges and immunities is found alive and well in Article 343 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), OJEU 9.5.2008 C 115/194.

In the consolidated Lisbon Treaty the protocol has drawn a new number, and it appears slightly updated as Protocol (No 7) on the privileges and immunities of the European Union (page 266 ff).

If anybody still needs convincing, the newest version of the Protocol still starts with the words ‘The High Contracting Parties’, hardly part of a federal vocabulary.


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Overview: Privileges and immunities

The Lisbon Treaty may enter into force during the legislative term from 2009 to 2014, but the European Parliament elections between 4 and 7 June 2009 are going to take place under the current Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC).

We continue our presentation of EU electoral law and the status of the European Parliament and its members (MEPs) with themes that seem a bit neglected by the member states and even by the EU institutions.

Ahead of the European elections it feels natural to proceed on the basis of the Protocol in force (although normally this blog dedicates more space to the Lisbon Treaty provisions than to the existing ones).

We start with a brief overview of Protocol (No 36) on the privileges and immunities of the European Communities, OJEU 29.12.2006 C 321 E/318.

The ‘raison d’ĂȘtre’ of the privileges and immunities is functional:
… these Communities and the European Investment Bank shall enjoy in the territories of the Member States such privileges and immunities as are necessary for the performance of their tasks …


Here are the Chapter headings for a cursory glance at the contents:

Chapter I Property, funds, assets and operations of the European Community
Chapter II Communications and laissez-passer
Chapter III Members of the European Parliament
Chapter IV Representatives of the Member States taking part in the work of the institutions of the European Communities
Chapter V Officials and other servants of the European Communities
Chapter VI Privileges and immunities of missions of third countries accredited to the European Communities
Chapter VII General provisions


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With the European elections in June 2009 in mind, we advance towards the status of the European Parliament and the MEPs in the following posts.


Ralf Grahn