Sunday, 8 March 2009

European Parliament: Lisbon Treaty implementation (Corbett report)

The European Parliament works to overhaul its Rules of Procedure. Some of the revised rules are intended to take effect when the new Parliament convenes after the European elections in June 2009. Others are being crafted to take effect if and when the EU Treaty of Lisbon enters into force, because implementing the new treaty will require adaptation by all institutions. (The EP seems to be the only one of them with any visible activity.)

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Treaty provisions

The European Parliament adopts its Rules of Procedure. Currently this is stated in Article 199 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC). If the Treaty of Lisbon enters into force, the corresponding provision is found in Article 232 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

But the reason for a revision of the European Parliament’s Rules of Procedure lie in the changed terminology and substance of the Treaty of Lisbon.


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AFCO Draft Report


Richard Corbett has drafted a Report for the Committee on Constitutional Affairs of the European Parliament (AFCO):

Draft Report on on the general revision of Parliament's Rules of Procedure; rappoteur Richard Corbett (15 December 2008); available here:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+COMPARL+PE-405.935+03+DOC+PDF+V0//EN&language=EN .


The procedure to follow is 2007/2124(REG).


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Legal base and Rules

Since the legal base (above) leaves the decisions to the EP, the draft Report refers to Rules 201 and 202 of the EP’s Rules of Procedure:

TITLE XII APPLICATION AND AMENDMENT OF THE RULES OF PROCEDURE

Rule 201 Application of the Rules of Procedure

1. Should doubt arise over the application or interpretation of these Rules of Procedure, the President may refer the matter to the committee responsible for examination.

Committee chairs may do so where such a doubt arises in the course of the committee's work and is related to it.

2. The committee shall decide whether it is necessary to propose an amendment to the Rules of Procedure. In this case it shall proceed in accordance with Rule 202.

3. Should the committee decide that an interpretation of the existing Rules is sufficient, it shall forward its interpretation to the President who shall inform Parliament at its next part-session.

4. Should a political group or at least forty Members contest the committee's interpretation, the matter shall be put to the vote in Parliament. Adoption of the text shall be by a majority of the votes cast provided that at least one-third of Parliament's component Members are present. In the event of rejection, the matter shall be referred back to the committee.

5. Uncontested interpretations and interpretations adopted by Parliament shall be appended in italic print as explanatory notes to the appropriate Rule or Rules.

6. Interpretations shall constitute precedents for the future application and interpretation of the Rules concerned.

7. The Rules of Procedure and interpretations shall be reviewed regularly by the committee responsible.

8. Where these Rules confer rights on a specific number of Members, that number shall be automatically adjusted to the nearest whole number representing the same percentage of Parliament's membership whenever the total size of Parliament is increased, notably following enlargements of the European Union.



Rule 202 Amendment of the Rules of Procedure

1. Any Member may propose amendments to these Rules and to the annexes thereto accompanied, if appropriate, by short justifications.

Such proposed amendments shall be translated, printed, distributed and referred to the committee responsible, which shall examine them and decide whether to submit them to Parliament.

For the purpose of applying Rules 150, 151 and 155 to consideration of such proposed amendments in Parliament, references made in those Rules to the 'original text' or the 'Commission proposal' shall be considered as referring to the provision in force at the time.

2. Amendments to these Rules shall be adopted only if they secure the votes of a majority of the component Members of Parliament.

3. Unless otherwise specified when the vote is taken, amendments to these Rules and to the annexes thereto shall enter into force on the first day of the partsession following their adoption.


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Documentation

When we consider that there have been many editions of the Rules of Procedure, and that there have existed various versions of the 16th edition, some of which have not been published in the Official Journal of the European Union, it would be a nice touch if the Report made a clear reference to the latest one in force and possible amendments already approved, right at the beginning (probably the 16th edition, October 2008).

The draft Report proposes that the EP decides to insert the Code of Conduct for negotiating codecision files, as approved by its Conference of Presidents on 18 September 2008, into its Rules of Procedure as Annex XVIe.

At least for outside readers it would have been easier if the draft Report had included the text of the proposed new Annex XVIe. As we have noted before, the decisions by the internal bodies of the EP are not directly accessible to the public, and a simple search on the EP website drew a blank.

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Amendments

There are proposed 84 amendments in all, some taking into account major changes, others introducing minor adjustments of terminology.

Here are the main areas where amendments are proposed: the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the multiannual financial framework, respect for the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality (with deadline of eight weeks for national parliaments; “yellow card” and “orange card”), legislative proposals from member states or groups of member states, interinstitutional negotiations in legislative procedures, a new Chapter 6a on constitutional matters, budgetary procedures, consent procedure, delegated acts, a new Title IIa on external relations, rules on debates, split or separate votes, committee coordinators and shadow rapporteurs, as well as a new category of guidelines and codes of conduct among the Annexes. A number of provisions would be deleted because they have become obsolete.



Ralf Grahn