Wednesday, 11 March 2009

European Parliament: Hearing the European Council

The Treaty of Lisbon would formally make the European Council into one of the institutions of the European Union. Article 13 of the amended Treaty on European Union (TEU) mentions the European Council right after the European Parliament, and Article 15 TEU contains the main provisions on its tasks, membership and President.

This leads to other changes at treaty level and below.


Current treaty

The fourth paragraph of Article 197 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) lays down the principle that the European Parliament can hear the Council (which has both legislative and executive powers), but it does not mention the European Council:

“The Council shall be heard by the European Parliament in accordance with the conditions laid down by the Council in its Rules of Procedure.”


Lisbon Treaty

The corresponding provision of the Treaty of Lisbon is the third paragraph of Article 230 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The Council and its Rules of Procedure remain as before, but the European Council and its Rules of Procedure are added:

“The European Council and the Council shall be heard by the European Parliament in accordance with the conditions laid down in the Rules of Procedure of the European Council and those of the Council.”


New Rules of Procedure

In practice, the head of government (or state) of and incoming Council Presidency presents the work programme before the European Parliament and then lauds the achievements during the six months at the helm before handing over the Presidency to the next member state.

Article 230 TFEU means that the European Council needs its own Rules of Procedure. Reporting from the meetings will become the task of the semi-permanent President, according to Article 15(6) TEU.

Preparatory work is needed to implement the Lisbon Treaty, should it enter into force.


Council information

The only more or less comprehensive public EU report emanating from the Council on preparatory work seems to be almost nine months old.

It is the ‘Progress report from the Presidency to the European Council ─ Preparatory work in view of the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty’ from the Slovenian Council Presidency to the European Council 19 and 20 June 2008 (Council document 10650/08, 13 June 2008):

The Progress Report, which sampled a number of questions from Slovenia’s earlier and unpublished list, noted that a number of issues related to the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty will require some form of agreement with the European Parliament (point 4).

Point 11 summarised the work undertaken on the Council’s and the European Council’s Rules of Procedure:

11. Rules of Procedure of European Council and Council (Articles 235 and 240 TFEU)

On the basis that the Council's Rules of Procedure should only be modified to the extent that this was needed as a result of the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, Permanent Representatives examined possible amendments to the existing Rules. Broad consensus was reached, subject to the inclusion of several provisions related to the division of labour between the GAC and the FAC and the preparation of European Council meetings, which it was agreed would be examined at a later stage.

Considerable progress was made on technical aspects of the European Council's Rules of Procedure; some other issues, related in particular to the preparation of European Council meetings, will require further work. A preliminary exchange of views focussed on the respective roles of those involved in the preparation of European Council meetings. There was broad support for the need for all of them to work closely together. A significant number of delegations underlined the need to ensure an adequate role in European Council meetings for the Head of State or Government of the Member State holding the Council presidency. These issues will require further work.


Preparatory work, progress reports and draft proposals are needed.

Ralf Grahn