Saturday, 14 March 2009

European Parliament: Amendments Rules of Procedure

The European Parliament’s Rules of Procedure regulate the proceedings in the EP. They build on parliamentary traditions and their aim is the orderly conduct of parliamentary business. But ‘objective’ rules may or may not favour larger groups at the expense of smaller ones or non-attached members. In other words, they can have political consequences.

With a view to serve MEP candidates and campaign groups, journalists, researchers, students and interested citizens, we take a look at some procedures (2008 and 2009) to amend or interpret the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament.

This overview shows that refining and interpreting the Rules of Procedure is an ongoing work.


Interpretations appended

On 2 September 2008 the European Parliament decided to append the following interpretation to Rule 182.
1. Decides to append the following interpretation to Rule 182:"
Rule 182(1) does not preclude the chair of the main committee from involving the chairs of the subcommittees in the work of the bureau or from permitting them to chair debates on issues specifically dealt with by the subcommittees in question – indeed, it allows this – provided that this way of proceeding is submitted to the bureau in its entirety for its consideration and that it receives the bureau's agreement.

Source: Resolution P6_TA-PROV(2008)0388 ; procedure REG/2008/2075.


On 19 February 2009 the European Parliament approved two interpretations, which were appended to the Rules in question:

1. Decides to append the following interpretation to Rule 47:"

For the purposes of examining international agreements under Rule 83, the procedure with associated committees set out in Rule 47 may not be applied in relation to the assent procedure under Rule 75.
2. Decides to append the following interpretation to Rule 149(4):"

Members who have asked for the quorum to be established must be present in the Chamber when the request is made.

Source: Resolution P6_TA-PROV(2009)0080 ; Procedures REG/2009/2017 and REG/2008/2327.


AFCO interpretation

The Committee on Constitutional Affairs, which had been consulted on the application of Rule 179(3), provided the following interpretation on that provision:
'If Parliament, acting pursuant to Rule 175 of the Rules of Procedure, has conferred a task on a temporary committee, no committees shall be asked for their opinions, unless determined otherwise on the basis of the mandate approved by Parliament or of decisions taken by the temporary committee in the light of that mandate.'

Source: Procedure REG/2008/2076.


Amendment of Rule 81 on implementing measures

On 8 May 2008 the European Parliament amended rule 81(4)(a) on implementing measures, by Resolution P6_TA(2008)0190:

(a) the time for scrutiny shall start to run when the draft of measures has been submitted to Parliament in all official languages. Where shorter time-limits apply (Article 5a(5)(b) of Council Decision 1999/468/EC laying down the procedures for the exercise of implementing powers conferred on the Commission) and in cases of urgency (Article 5a(6) of Decision 1999/468/EC), the time for scrutiny shall, unless the Chair of the committee responsible objects, start to run from the date of receipt by Parliament of the final draft implementing measures in the language versions submitted to the members of the committee established in accordance with Decision 1999/468/EC. Rule 138 shall not apply in this case ;

Sources: Procedure REG/2008/2027; AFCO Report A6-0108/2008 included the justification (explanation), which concerns implementing powers delegated to the Commission.


Duties of the EP President

On 31 January 2008 the European Parliament adopted a Resolution interpreting the duties of the President, with the aim to curb the use of procedural means (for minority groups) to prolong the sittings of Parliament. The wording gives its blessing to the decisions already taken by the EP President to refuse demands for time-consuming procedures by “fringe” groups:

1. Adopts the following interpretation of Rule 19:"
'Rule 19(1) can be interpreted as meaning that the powers conferred by that Rule include the power to call an end to the excessive use of motions such as points of order, procedural motions, explanations of vote and requests for separate, split or roll-call votes where the President is convinced that these are manifestly intended to cause and will result in a prolonged and serious obstruction of the procedures of the House or the rights of other Members';

Sources: Resolution P6_TA(2008)0024; procedure REG/2008/2016.


Transitional language rules

On 11 March 2009 the European Parliament adopted a resolution to prolong the provisional derogations with regard to the use of especially Irish and Maltese until the end of the parliamentary term from 2009 to 2014.

Because the Resolution is fresh and requires attentive reading, but may be of interest to some of the visitors to this blog, we present the explanatory text as well:

The European Parliament ,
– having regard to Article 290 of the EC Treaty,
– having regard to Council Regulation No 1 of 15 April 1958 determining the languages to be used by the European Economic Community(1) , as last amended by Council Regulation (EC) No 920/2005(2) ,
– having regard to the Code of Conduct on Multilingualism adopted by the Bureau on 17 November 2008,
– having regard to the Bureau's decision of 13 December 2006 on a derogation from Rule 138 and its subsequent decisions extending that derogation until the end of the current parliamentary term,
– having regard to Rules 138 and 139 of its Rules of Procedure,
A. whereas, pursuant to Rule 138, all Parliament's documents are to be drawn up in the official languages, and all Members have the right to speak in Parliament in the official language of their choice, with interpretation into the other official languages,
B. whereas, under Rule 139, derogations from Rule 138 are permissible until the end of the sixth parliamentary term if, and to the extent that, despite adequate precautions, the linguists required for an official language are not available in sufficient numbers; whereas with respect to each official language for which a derogation is considered necessary, the Bureau, on a proposal from the Secretary-General, shall ascertain whether the conditions are fulfilled, and the Bureau shall review its decision every six months,
C. whereas, on 13 December 2006, the Bureau accepted that the difficulties of providing sufficient language cover for Maltese, Romanian, Bulgarian and Irish were such that the conditions were fulfilled for a derogation from Rule 138 in respect of each of those languages; whereas by subsequent Bureau decisions those derogations have been extended such that, from 1 January 2009 until the end of the parliamentary term, a derogation applies in respect of Bulgarian and Romanian (interpretation), Czech (interpretation during the Czech Council Presidency), Maltese (interpretation and translation) and Irish (interpretation, translation and legal-linguistic verification),
D. whereas Council Regulation (EC) No 920/2005 provides for temporary (renewable) derogation measures for a five-year period in respect of Irish,
E. whereas, despite all adequate precautions, the capacity in Irish and Maltese is not expected to be such as to allow a full interpretation service in those languages from the beginning of the seventh parliamentary term; whereas, for certain other languages, although there will be sufficient capacity to cover the needs arising from the usual activities of Parliament, the number of interpreters may not be sufficient to allow full coverage of all the extra needs expected during the Council Presidencies of the Member States concerned during the seventh parliamentary term,
F. whereas, despite sustained and continuous interinstitutional efforts, the number of qualified translators and lawyer-linguists is still expected to be so limited as regards Irish that, for the foreseeable future, only a reduced coverage of that language can be assured; whereas Council Regulation (EC) No 920/2005 does not require legislation of the European Union adopted before 1 January 2007 ('the Acquis ') to be translated into Irish; whereas, as a result of the derogation measures laid down in that Regulation, only Commission proposals for codecision regulations are currently being presented in Irish and, as long as this situation persists, it will not be possible for Parliament's services to prepare Irish versions of other types of legal act,
G. whereas, during the seventh parliamentary term, other European States may become members of the European Union; whereas, for the new languages concerned, linguists may not be available in sufficient numbers from the day of accession, which will require transitional measures,
H. whereas Rule 139(4) provides that, on a reasoned recommendation from the Bureau, Parliament may decide, at the end of the parliamentary term, to extend that Rule,
I. whereas, in the light of the foregoing, the Bureau has recommended that Rule 139 be extended until the end of the seventh parliamentary term,
1. Decides to extend the applicability of Rule 139 of Parliament's Rules of Procedure until the end of the seventh parliamentary term;
2. Instructs its President to forward this decision to the Council and the Commission for information.

Source: Procedure RSO/2009/2563; Resolution P6_TA-PROV(2009)0116.


Earlier procedures

Earlier procedures were omitted, but here are some from 2007 in short form:

REG/2007/2272 plenary proceedings; Corbett
REG/2007/2266 Rule 121 on ECJ proceedings; Botopoulos
REG/2007/2240 symbols of the Union; Carnero González
REG/2007/2170 interprettion Rule 116; Corbett
REG/2007/2137 Rule 173 verbatim reports; Corbett

Ralf Grahn