Tuesday, 3 March 2009

European Parliament: Relations with Commission and Council

The existing treaties and the EU Treaty of Lisbon contain basic provisions on the internal organisation of the European Parliament and on the EP’s relations with the other institutions: the Commission and the Council.

We note that the Council (Presidencies) have been negligent in reporting on the preparatory work to implement the Treaty of Lisbon.

In this blog post we present the treaty changes before we embark upon the relations between the institutions in more detail.




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Current treaty

Article 197 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) contains bare bones provisions on two areas concerning the European Parliament:

a) internal organisation, and
b) relations with the Commission and the Council.

The text of Article 197 TEC is from the latest consolidated version of the treaties, published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) 29.12.2006 C 321 E/134:


Article 197 TEC

The European Parliament shall elect its President and its officers from among its Members.

Members of the Commission may attend all meetings and shall, at their request, be heard on behalf of the Commission.

The Commission shall reply orally or in writing to questions put to it by the European Parliament or by its Members.

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


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Original Lisbon Treaty (ToL)

Article 2, point 185 of the original Treaty of Lisbon formally deleted the first paragraph of Article 197 TEC on the internal organisation of the European Parliament and amended two of the three other paragraphs (OJEU 17.12.2007 C 306/102):


185) Article 197 shall be amended as follows:

(a) the first paragraph shall be deleted;

(b) the second paragraph shall be replaced by the following:

‘The Commission may attend all the meetings and shall, at its request, be heard.’;

(c) the fourth paragraph shall be replaced by the following:

‘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.’.


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I used the words formally deleted with regard to the first paragraph of Article 197 TEC, because if we look at Article 9a(4) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) we find the following text (OJEU page 17):


4. The European Parliament shall elect its President and its officers from among its members.’.


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Consolidated Lisbon Treaty

This means that we had two strands to follow in the consolidated Treaty of Lisbon (OJEU 9.5.2008 C 115).

1) The main provisions on the institutions are located in Title III of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and Article 9a TEU (ToL) was renumbered Article 14 TEU in the consolidated version (OJEU page 22 to 23).

In a number of blog posts we presented the internal organisation of the European Parliament, where it has exercised its autonomy by laying down detailed provisions in its Rules of Procedure. We found that the EP’s web pages showed little effort to offer the public accessible information about the activities and decisions of the administrative bodies of the Parliament.

2) We are now going to turn to the “institutional triangle”, the relations between the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council.
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The European Parliament’s relations with the Commission and the Council remained in slightly amended form in Article 197 (ToL), which was renumbered Article 230 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) in the consolidated Lisbon Treaty (OJEU page 151):


Article 230 TFEU
(ex Article 197, second, third and fourth paragraph, TEC)

The Commission may attend all the meetings and shall, at its request, be heard.

The Commission shall reply orally or in writing to questions put to it by the European Parliament or by its Members.

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.


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Lisbon Treaty changes

The first paragraph of Article 230 TFEU does not change the meaning of its counterpart in Article 197 TEC, but it is shorter and arguably more elegant.

The third paragraph of Article 230 TFEU makes the treaty level addition that the European Council is heard by the EP. This is a codification of existing practice, but it does not exclude further developments.

If the Lisbon Treaty enters into force, the European Council becomes an official institution and it needs its own Rules of Procedure, replacing the meagre Rules for the organisation of the proceedings of the European Council.
The Council has been negligent in its reporting on the preparation of the numerous Lisbon Treaty implementing measures and in enabling a public debate on the draft proposals.


Ralf Grahn