Thursday 30 April 2009

New EU member states: Freer movement of workers

Tomorrow, 1 May 2009, five years have passed since the “big bang” enlargement of the European Union. The ten acceding member states were: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. (Bulgaria and Romania became EU member states on 1 January 2007.)

One of the principal aims of the European Community (European Union) is to eliminate barriers which divide Europe. For these purposes the EC (EU) activities include an internal market characterised by the abolition, as between the member states, of obstacles to the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital.

In other words, the four fundamental market freedoms which relate to free movement are not restricted to goods, services and capital, but apply to human beings as well.

New developments

Denmark lifts all and Belgium some restrictions on the free movement of workers from 1 May 2009. See the Commission’s press release: European Commission welcomes the decisions by Belgium and Denmark to open their labour markets (29 April 2009).



For an overview of the transitional provisions concerning workers from you can turn to the web page Enlargement - transitional provisions and the links you find there.




Ralf Grahn

European Economic and Social Committee Opinions

The (European) Economic and Social Committee consists of representatives of organised civil society, and it must be consulted by the Council or by the Commission where the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) so provides.

The EESC (or ESC) may be consulted in other cases, as well as by the European Parliament. The EESC may issue opinions on its own initiative.

The relevant treaty provisions on this advisory body are Articles 257 to 267 TEC (in the Treaty of Lisbon Articles 300 to 304 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union; TFEU).


Opinions

As with the Committee of the Regions, the opinion of the Economic and Social Committee is a mandatory requirement for Community legislation, when provided by the TEC, and the opinion is mentioned in the Preamble of the act.

For a student or researcher digging deeper into a Community act, the opinion is an essential reference.

The Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) is the prime source for official materials on the European Union.

Far from the hectic pace of public information on the web and daily news reporting, the opinions of the European Economic and Social Committee are published in the OJEU with some delay.

The latest example is today’s OJEU 30.4.2009 C 100, where you find the opinions of the European Economic and Social Committee of the 448th plenary session held on 21 to 23 October 2008.






In other words, official publication takes place about six months after the session. Luckily, you can search the opinions by later sessions on the EESC web page Opinion Search.




Ralf Grahn

EU: Cheaper Community trade marks

From 1 May 2009 the registration of a Community trade mark becomes cheaper. Basically this happens by setting the registration fee for an application at zero euros.


OHIM, the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs), based in Alicante (Spain) has not only covered its costs, but has built up substantial cash reserves.


The time has come to adjust the fees to the real costs of OHIM. This will benefit businesses registering Community-wide trade marks.

The move has been brewing for a long time, but the official confirmation comes only today, in the form of Commission Regulation (EC) No 355/2009 of 31 March 2009 amending Regulation (EC) No 2869/95 on the fees payable to the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs) and Regulation (EC) No 2868/95 implementing Council Regulation (EC) No 40/94 on the Community trade mark, published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) 30.4.2009 L 109/3.




Ralf Grahn

Wednesday 29 April 2009

European Union: New State Aid Simplification Package

Despite its intensive work on state aid rules and decisions related to the financial and economic crisis, the Commission has launched two measures aiming at general state aid reform.

The European Commission has published a State Aid Simplification Package, which consists of two parts. For a quick view, see press release State aid: Commission adopts Simplification Package to accelerate state aid decisions (29 April 2009; IP/09/659).



The background MEMO/09/208, State aid: Commission adopts Best Practices Code and Simplified Procedure to accelerate state aid decisions – frequently asked questions, offers more information.



***

Simplified procedure

The Notice from the Commission on a simplified procedure for treatment of certain types of State aid (Text with EEA relevance) has no date or number, but this is probably the document in question.




***

Best Practice Code

The Notice from the Commission on a Best Practices Code on the conduct of State aid control proceedings lacks both date and number, but this is probably the second document meant by the Commission.


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State aid procedure

The Commission > Competition > State aid > State aid control > Legislation > Rules on Procedure web pages offer background but also an array of documents, including the two latest Notices.



There are also Citizen Summaries available.

Despite the pressures, clear identifiers would help readers.



Ralf Grahn

William Hague: Conservative Party for EU disintegration

Hat tip to Open Europe’s press summary for drawing my attention to the Timesonline interview: We’ll win the next election, says William Hague (29 April 2009).




There are several interesting replies concerning the future relations between the United Kingdom led by a Tory government and the European Union.

According to Hague, they would be active, energetic and engaged members of the EU.


The Conservative Party would spell out in its manifesto what action it would take to reverse European integration.

***

Some people may perceive a contradiction between the two statements.

Integration is a process bringing the people and member states of Europe closer. Reverse integration points in the opposite direction: disintegration.

***

Great Britain is about to change from standing on the brake to shifting into reverse gear.

It is high time for the core of the European Union to embark on a reform course and to step on the accelerator, without the United Kingdom.


Ralf Grahn

EU: Crime victims (new documents)

We add a few complementary references to Commission documents concerning the standing of crime victims and compensation to victims of crime, which we wrote about in an earlier blog post: EU: Victims of crime & compensation (8 April 2009).




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Standing of crime victims

Press release

Commission adopts report on implementation of framework decision on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings (21 April 2009; IP/09/549)

The Commission has adopted the report on the implementation of Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA of 15 March 2001 on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings. This report was drawn up in accordance with Article 18 of the Framework Decision.



Report

The documents – COM or SEC – can be found through the Eur-Lex web portal’s pages on preparatory acts.




Brussels, 20.4.2009
COM(2009) 166 final
REPORT FROM THE COMMISSION
pursuant to Article 18 of the Council Framework Decision of 15 March 2001 on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings (2001/220/JHA)
[SEC(2009) 476]



Staff working document


Brussels, 20.4.2009
SEC(2009) 476
COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT Accompanying document to the COMMISSION'S REPORT based on article 18 of the Council Framework Decision of 15 March 2001 on standing of victims in criminal proceedings [COM(2009)166 final]

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Compensation for crime victims

European Union makes it easier for crime victims to obtain compensation (21 April 2009¸IP//09/548)

The Commission has adopted the Report on the application of Council Directive 2004/80/EC of 29 April 2004 relating to compensation to crime victims, which aims to make it easier for victims to obtain compensation in cross-border situations. The report was produced in accordance with Article 19 of the Directive.


Summary on crime victims

Report on the implementation of the Directive on compensation to crime victims (21 April 2009; MEMO/09/159)
Directive 2004/80/EC
Summary for the attention of Vice-President J. Barrot



Report


Brussels, 20.4.2009
COM(2009) 170 final
REPORT FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE on the application of Council Directive 2004/80/EC relating to compensation to crime victims
[SEC(2009) 495]


Staff working document

Brussels, 20.4.2009
SEC (2009) 495
COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT
accompanying document
TO THE REPORT FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE on the application of Council Directive 2004/80/EC relating to compensation to crime victims
[COM (2009) 170 final]



Ralf Grahn

EU: Brussels I Regulation (new documents)

When we wrote about the Brussels I Regulation, we were unable to locate the report and the green paper referred to in the Commission’s press releases.

They have now been posted on the Eur-Lex pages dedicated to preparatory acts, among COM documents:

Brussels I Regulation report

Brussels, 21.4.2009
COM(2009) 174 final
REPORT FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE COUNCIL AND THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE on the application of Council Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters



Green paper Brussels I Regulation

Brussels, 21.4.2009
COM(2009) 175 final
GREEN PAPER ON THE REVIEW OF COUNCIL REGULATION (EC) No 44/2001 ON JURISDICTION AND THE RECOGNITION AND ENFORCEMENT OF JUDGMENTS IN CIVIL AND COMMERCIAL MATTERS



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Overview

IP/09/606

We have the Commission’s press release: European citizens and business to benefit from greater access to justice - strengthening co-operation in civil and commercial matters (21 April 2009; IP/09/606).



According to the press release, on 21 April, the Commission adopted a report and a green paper on the application of Council Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement in civil and commercial matters. This Regulation, widely known as the "Brussels I Regulation", is the matrix of European judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters. It aims at providing the legal support for the good functioning of the internal market, addressing two key questions which arise in the event of a dispute involving natural or legal persons from different Member States:

• The courts of which Member States shall have jurisdiction to rule on the dispute;
• How the judgment given by that court will be recognised and enforced in the other Member States.


MEMO/09/169

Report and Green paper on the review and application of regulation (ec) no 44/2001 on jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (21 April 2009; MEMO/09/169)

On 21 April 2009, the Commission adopted a report and a green paper on the functioning of the existing rules on jurisdiction of the courts and the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. It concludes that time has come to achieve a free circulation of judgments in civil and commercial matters in the European Union on the basis of mutual recognition of judgments among Member States.


Ralf Grahn

Start updating, Jacques Barrot! (JHA)

The Commissioner in charge is Jacques Barrot: Welcome to the European Union’s area of freedom security and justice …


I was looking for information about the European Commission’s Justice and Home Affairs. What did I find? Or perhaps I should rephrase: What did I not find on the web pages of Barrot’s services?

The answer to the first question is: Almost no updated information.

The answer to the second question is: Antiquated information about one of the most rapidly evolving policy areas of the European Union.

***

General page

The latest update on the introductory page about the area of freedom, security and justice is the third annual report or scoreboard, adopted 2 July 2008.

Newsroom

The so called Newsroom had an item on Europol’s report about the fight against terrorism, from 21 April 2009.

Not bad, being just a week old? But since then, the Commission has communicated on other issues, without updating its Newsroom page.

Documentation centre

Someone looking for reports, Green Papers and proposals would probably go to the Documentation centre. What would he find?

What he finds is the consolidated acquis of the EU under Title IV TEC and Title VI TEU, updated in October 2008.

This is a valuable compilation of information sources, but where are the new proposals and reports?

Funding opportunities

The page on funding opportunities has actually been updated 1 April 2009.

Jacques Barrot

The Commission Vice-President’s own web page contains a greeting and undated wishes for the European elections.

Directorate-General

The web page of Commissioner Barrot’s services, the Directorate-General for Justice, Freedom and Security, is a timeless piece, without any fresh contents.

Relevant web sites

There are links to various external web sites, but no contents on the web page.


***

Conclusions

Fresh information should be on offer right where you land, but the main category pages are stale and almost useless if you look for updated information. Even if you start exploring the links, you will find that the JHA D-G seems to have other things on its mind than to inform the public in a timely manner.

I am perplexed. During Franco Frattini’s time, the JHA web pages were updated swiftly, with new documents available and easy to find. Now you get the feeling that you are entering the Kingdom of Sleep. What has happened and why?

The D-G’s web pages are unreliable, because you don’t know how much information is missing. The only useful pages for fresh information seem to be through the link to the latest press releases, but they do not link to the documents in question. You have to search for them separately. This makes the task harder.

To conclude: Stale and useless. A profound change of attitude plus a quick overhaul are in order.


Ralf Grahn

Tuesday 28 April 2009

European Ombudsman: Annual Report 2008

P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, the European Ombudsman, has published his Annual Report for 2008 (27 April 2009).



The full 100 page report is available in English, but summaries are on offer in the other official languages of the European Union.

This is how the report explains its own structure:

The structure of the new Report is designed to guide the reader logically from an explanation of the Ombudsman's mandate and procedures (Chapter 2), to concrete case-handling activity in 2008 (Chapter 3), outreach activities (Chapter 4) and internal developments concerning personnel and budget (Chapter 5). The Report begins, as before, with an introduction by the Ombudsman, followed by an Executive Summary (Chapter 1).


***

European Ombudsman: Legal background

The core provision on the European Ombudsman is Article 195 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC):


Article 195 TEC

1. The European Parliament shall appoint an Ombudsman empowered to receive complaints from any citizen of the Union or any natural or legal person residing or having its registered office in a Member State concerning instances of maladministration in the activities of the Community institutions or bodies, with the exception of the Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance acting in their judicial role.

In accordance with his duties, the Ombudsman shall conduct inquiries for which he finds grounds, either on his own initiative or on the basis of complaints submitted to him direct or through a Member of the European Parliament, except where the alleged facts are or have been the subject of legal proceedings. Where the Ombudsman establishes an instance of maladministration, he shall refer the matter to the institution concerned, which shall have a period of three months in which to inform him of its views. The Ombudsman shall then forward a report to the European Parliament and the institution concerned. The person lodging the complaint shall be informed of the outcome of such inquiries.

The Ombudsman shall submit an annual report to the European Parliament on the outcome of his inquiries.

2. The Ombudsman shall be appointed after each election of the European Parliament for the duration of its term of office. The Ombudsman shall be eligible for reappointment.

The Ombudsman may be dismissed by the Court of Justice at the request of the European Parliament if he no longer fulfils the conditions required for the performance of his duties or if he is guilty of serious misconduct.

3. The Ombudsman shall be completely independent in the performance of his duties. In the performance of those duties he shall neither seek nor take instructions from any body. The Ombudsman may not, during his term of office, engage in any other occupation, whether gainful or not.

4. The European Parliament shall, after seeking an opinion from the Commission and with the approval of the Council acting by a qualified majority, lay down the regulations and general conditions governing the performance of the Ombudsman's duties.


***

Planning a complaint?

If you are planning a complaint to the European Ombudsman, you (or your advisor) would do well to read the Annual Report. It contains a lot of information about admissibility and the handling of inquiries.


Ralf Grahn

European Union: Human rights legislation & thematic files

Eur-Lex, the legal portal to legislation of the European Union (European Community), has published a new thematic file on human rights, one of the founding values.



The aim of a thematic file is to present core legislation, preparatory acts and other acts in a certain area in a convenient form for users.

The following thematic files offering EU legal materials are available:

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/en/dossier/index.htm

• Human rights (23/04/2009)
• Possession of fire arms (26/03/2009)
• European health strategy (13/03/2009)
• European Union policy in the field of research and innovation (27/01/2009)
• The visual characteristics of the euro coins (29/01/2009)
• Endangered species (09/12/2008)
• Rules on alcohol consumption (18/11/2008)
• Prevention and recycling of waste (25/09/2008)
• Multilingualism in the EU (15/09/2008)
• Air safety (10/09/2008)
• Climate change (27/08/2008)
• European Neighbourhood Policy (25/08/2008)
• Air passenger rights in the European Union (19/08/2008)
• External relations EU - Turkey (18/08/2008)
• Immigration - Asylum (08/08/2008)
• Customs Tariff (31/07/2008)
• Avian influenza (30/07/2008)
• Fight against terrorism (16/07/2008)
• Personal Data Protection (10/07/2008)
• Campaign against smoking (08/07/2008)
• Recognition of diplomas and qualifications in the European Union (26/06/2008)
• Protection of children (26/05/2008)
• Travelling and disabilities (15/05/2008)
• Employment (24/04/2008)
• Protection of privacy (09/04/2008)
• Money laundering (27/03/2008)
• Freedom of expression (04/03/2008)
• Non-discrimination and equal opportunities for all in the EU (01/02/2008)
• Consumer protection (15/11/2007)
• Humanitarian aid (04/10/2007)
• Reducing greenhouse gas emissions (19/07/2007)
• The fight against corruption (16/05/2007)
• Value added tax (VAT) (29/11/2006)
• Cosmetic products (25/10/2006)
• Food safety (28/09/2006)
• Football (06/06/2006)
• Lisbon Strategy (17/05/2006)
• Security of energy supply (07/02/2006)



Ralf Grahn

Finland: Government Report on EU Policy (now in English)

When the Government of Finland published its Report on EU policy on 8 April 2009, it promised that an English version would be made available later (in addition to the Finnish and Swedish texts published initially).

The English version has now been published, and it is available for free.

The Government Report on EU Policy (Prime Minister’s Office Publications | 20/2009; 44 pages) has been given three sub-headings:

An empowered Union in the world

An empowered citizen in the Union

An influential Finland in Europe




The abstract offers the following descrpiton of the publication:


Abstract

The Government Report on EU Policy analyses the development of the European Union and the significance of EU membership to Finland. The report also lays down basic principles and key objectives for Finland’s EU policy and considers ways to develop the exercise of influence in the EU. Finland’s priorities in the European Union are related to a Europe of citizens, the economic success of Europe and the EU’s role as a prominent global actor.

Finland’s EU policy is based on constructive exercise of influence. The present report will serve as a basis for a future project aimed at developing the coordination of EU issues and tools for exerting influence in the EU.


Ralf Grahn

Monday 27 April 2009

eLibrary of EU law and politics: Grahnlaw

Grahnlaw blog post number 1,000 is a reason to take stock. Since April 2007 Grahnlaw has grown into a small electronic library of EU law and politics.


Educational purpose


The main purpose of Grahnlaw is to provide education for citizens and businesses.

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Beginnings

In the beginning, I looked at the United States Constitution, the European Court of Human Rights and at deciding moments in the history of European integration. Later, current EU politics and the Reform Treaty of the European Union became the main themes.

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EU law


When the Council decided not to publish a readable, consolidated version of the Treaty of Lisbon, I started looking for ‘private’ consolidations of and materials on the new treaties, as well as campaigning for the publication of official consolidated versions in all the EU treaty languages.

I also began to present my own consolidated treaty texts, Article by Article. The Treaty on European Union (TEU) has been treated (more or less in full). The Council belatedly decided to publish the new treaties in a consolidated version

Some of the TEU posts have been revisited, and there are by now blog posts on about two thirds of the Articles of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

Before the current detour viewing the special legislative procedures, we were among the institutional TFEU provisions of the Lisbon Treaty dealing with the Council.



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EU politics

The treaty posts have been interspersed with discussion about EU politics, especially questions about democratic legitimacy and accountability. The negative result in the Irish referendum led to long exchanges about the future of the European Union. There have been a number of posts on the parliamentary ratification processes in member states, but the Lisbon Treaty saga is still unfinished.

Ahead of the European elections in June 2009, there have been posts on legal and political aspects of EU level democracy and its imperfections.

Both legal and political posts try to be factually correct and to offer materials and references for interested readers. I am grateful for discussion, as well as remarks on possible mistakes.

The blog’s motto “for a democratic European Union” means that Grahnlaw is not ideologically neutral. The general interest and an EU citizen’s perspective form the basis for observations, to the extent possible.

This does not exclude articles from or about individual countries (my own included), but I write independently from member states and the EU institutions.

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Business interests

Novel themes have appeared, below the treaty level. Exploration of the practical side of the European Union (European Community) is ongoing.

I have noticed that the internal market (single market) including public procurement and competition including state aid, as well as enterprise policies (SMEs), are of interest to businesses, governments and other legal practitioners within and outside the European Economic Area (EEA).

EU residents are interested in their rights under Community legislation.

.

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Long tail

I have noticed that many readers arrive as a result of web searches. The blog posts have a long tail. Newer posts may attract more readers, but on a single day, readers may access perhaps two hundred different blog posts.

Sometimes the tail is even too long. The search engine may have suggested an outdated entry, when there are several newer and more relevant posts on the subject. At times, using the search options within the blog or looking at the contents or headlines of newer posts might lead to fresher information.

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Discussion

This virtual EU library appreciates comments, as well as hints about books and publications on EU law and politics. I have added a number of blogs and web sites to my blog roll, but suggestions are welcome.

Blogging is one reason to follow what other Euroblogs write. Bloggingportal.eu and other aggregators are a great help to keep track of discussions.



Sadly, after receiving too much dubious spam “comments”, I felt that I had to start monitoring comments before they appear. Spam submissions have practically disappeared, but comments have to wait for approval.

Writing about EU law and politics has been a passion of mine for a number of years. Some of my earlier contributions on EU themes can still be found in Swedish and Finnish on various forums and my other blogs (although some materials have disappeared).

Starting a blog in English was a way to join the Euroblogosphere and to contribute to a European public sphere. After two years, I feel that Grahnlaw in English serves this purpose.

About three quarters of the readers come from Europe and about one in five from North America, which leaves a readership of perhaps five percent from the rest of the world.

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Why Euroblogging?

The educational motive is not one-sided. As a writer and ‘e-librarian’, I can hope to educate my readers, but I certainly educate myself.

Teaching is said to be the best way to learn. Writing is but a form of teaching.

In addition to possible altruistic motives, there are selfish and practical ones: Blogging provides the discipline to prepare for speaking engagements, teaching stints and providing advice for clients.

Last, but not least, I enjoy writing.

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Future

Writing and posting is a process, and the priorities shift over time. At this moment, I see three areas or categories for future posts:

1) Lisbon Treaty (the treaties): Fairly soon a return to the systematic presentation of the Treaty of Lisbon (and the existing provisions). The treaty may enter into force, but if it does not, it is still going to remain the point of reference for discussions about EU Law for some time. (Despite its shortcomings, the Lisbon Treaty is better and more readable than the existing treaties.)

2) EU business and citizens: Highlighting the existence or some general aspects of new legislation and developments concerning businesses and individuals in cross-border situations.

3) EU politics: Facts and opinions with regard to EU citizenship and democratic principles at EU level.

Comments on the blog and the individual posts are welcome, although the blog is not a medium for offering legal advice.




Ralf Grahn

EU: Special legislative procedure (IX; EP powers)

When a special legislative procedure is mentioned in the Treaty of Lisbon, it is normally an indication that at least one member state of the European Union has been reticent about attributing powers to the EU and even more negative about conferring ‘equal’ powers to the European Parliament, if the EU ever legislates on the issues in question.

Therefore, we have looked at the areas in the context of our series on the Council’s competences, because the position of the European Parliament is usually marginal.

But there are a few notable exceptions, in questions closely related to the European Parliament. In these areas the EP initiates legislation according to a special legislative procedure. Our first example was mentioned in post VII of this series. Here a few more examples will follow.

Our Odyssey of the special legislative procedure continues through the consolidated version of the Lisbon Treaty, officially the Consolidated versions of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) 9.5.2008 C 115.



***

Initiated by European Parliament


MEPs’ Statute

The possible European election code or at least the common principles for the European elections, as well as the Duff report on possible future reforms, were mentioned in post number VII on the special legislative procedure. Here the Council is still the legislator, with the consent of the European Parliament (and possibly on its initiative).

But one of the rare instances of legislation officially initiated by the European Parliament is found in the second paragraph of Article 223 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

The regulations and general conditions governing the performance of the duties of Members of the European Parliament (Members Statute) are laid down by a special legislative procedure. The Commission gives an opinion and the Council’s approval is needed, by unanimity if the rules relate to taxation. The provision can be seen as an expression of the EP’s internal autonomy.



Article 223(2) TFEU
(ex Article 190(4) and (5) TEC)


1. The European Parliament shall draw up a proposal to lay down the provisions necessary for the election of its Members by direct universal suffrage in accordance with a uniform procedure in all Member States or in accordance with principles common to all Member States.

The Council, acting unanimously in accordance with a special legislative procedure and after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, which shall act by a majority of its component Members, shall lay down the necessary provisions. These provisions shall enter into force following their approval by the Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.


2. The European Parliament, acting by means of regulations on its own initiative in accordance with a special legislative procedure after seeking an opinion from the Commission and with the approval of the Council, shall lay down the regulations and general conditions governing the performance of the duties of its Members. All rules or conditions relating to the taxation of Members or former Members shall require unanimity within the Council.


***


Right of inquiry



Article 226 TFEU lays down the right for the European Parliament to set up a temporary Committee of Inquiry to investigate alleged contraventions or maladministration in the implementation of EU law.

The European Parliament creates the detailed rules concerning the right of inquiry by a special legislative procedure, but it needs the consent of the Council and the Commission, as laid down in the third subparagraph. The provision can be seen as an expression of the EP’s internal autonomy:


The detailed provisions governing the exercise of the right of inquiry shall be determined by the European Parliament, acting by means of regulations on its own initiative in accordance with a special legislative procedure, after obtaining the consent of the Council and the Commission.



***


European Ombudsman

The European Ombudsman, who examines complaints from citizens, works independently but resides in conjunction with the European Parliament. Therefore the EP has been given the leading role in devising the rules concerning the Ombudsman’s duties:


Article 228(4) TFEU

4. The European Parliament acting by means of regulations on its own initiative in accordance with a special legislative procedure shall, after seeking an opinion from the Commission and with the approval of the Council, lay down the regulations and general conditions governing the performance of the Ombudsman's duties.



Ralf Grahn

Sunday 26 April 2009

EU: Special legislative procedure (VIII & detour)

A post in our series on the various functions of the Council of the European Union elicited comments by JL about the absence of a presentation of the procedural aspects of the special legislative procedure, where the latest posts had covered the ground concerning subject matter.

Let us turn to the Council’s Rules of Procedure to complement our series with procedural aspects of the Council’s legislative work.

These provisions are of general interest with regard to the character of Council work and principles such as openness, transparency and accountability.

***

Materials

The latest consolidated version of Council Decision 2006/683/EC, Euratom of 15 September 2006 adopting the Council's Rules of Procedure, originally published OJEU 16.10.2006 L 285/47, seems to be of 1 January 2009.



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In a legislative capacity

Article 7 of the Council’s Rules of Procedure distinguishes the situations and sets the limits of the situations where the Council acts in a legislative capacity:


Article 7
Cases where the Council acts in its legislative capacity

The Council acts in its legislative capacity within the meaning of the second subparagraph of Article 207(3) of the EC Treaty when it adopts rules which are legally binding in or for the Member States, by means of regulations, directives, framework decisions or decisions, on the basis of the relevant provisions of the Treaties, with the exception of discussions leading to the adoption of internal measures, administrative or budgetary acts, acts concerning interinstitutional or international relations or non-binding acts (such as conclusions, recommendations or resolutions).

Where legislative proposals or initiatives are submitted to it the Council shall refrain from adopting acts which are not provided for by the Treaties, such as resolutions, conclusions or declarations other than those referred to in Article 9.


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Open deliberations

Article 8 contains provision on discussions in public and their availability on the web.

When the co-decision procedure applies (future ordinary legislative procedure), the presentation and the opening debate on a proposed legislative act is open, as well as other Council deliberations, the closing debate and the vote.

Other important new legislative proposals are normally discussed in public, and they may be discussed publicly later. This includes proposals falling under the special legislative procedure.

Special public debates may be arranged on important issues.

The 18 montth programmer of the troika (or trio) and other policy programmes are debated in public.

Items set for public deliberation or public debate are marked on the agenda.

The public discussions are available on the web.


Article 8
Council deliberations open to the public and public debates

1. Council deliberations on legislative acts to be adopted in accordance with the codecision procedure under Article 251 of the EC Treaty shall be open to the public as follows:

(a) the presentation, if any, by the Commission of its legislative proposals and the ensuing deliberation in the Council shall be open to the public;

(b) the vote on such legislative acts shall be open to the public, as well as the final Council deliberations leading to that vote and the explanations of voting accompanying it;

(c) all other Council deliberations on such legislative acts shall be open to the public, unless, on a case by case basis, the Council or Coreper decides otherwise with regard to a given deliberation.

2. The Council's first deliberation on important new legislative proposals other than those to be adopted in accordance with the codecision procedure shall be open to the public. The Presidency shall identify which new legislative proposals are important and the Council or Coreper may decide otherwise, whenever appropriate. The Presidency may decide, on a case by case basis, that the subsequent Council deliberations on a particular legislative act shall be open to the public, unless the Council or Coreper decides otherwise.

3. On a decision taken by the Council or by Coreper, acting by a qualified majority, the Council shall hold public debates on important issues affecting the interests of the European Union and its citizens.

It shall be for the Presidency, any member of the Council, or the Commission to propose issues or specific subjects for such debates, taking into account the importance of the matter and its interest to citizens.

4. The General Affairs and External Relations Council convened in a meeting as referred to in Article 2(2)(a) shall hold a public policy debate on the Council's 18-month programme. Policy debates in other Council configurations on their priorities shall also be held in public. The Commission's presentation of its five-year programme, of its annual work programme and of its annual policy strategy, as well as the ensuing debate in the Council, shall be public.

5. As from the sending of the provisional agenda pursuant to Article 3:

(a) those items on the agenda of the Council which are open to the public in accordance with paragraphs 1 and 2 shall be marked with the words “public deliberation”;

(b) those items on the agenda of the Council which are open to the public in accordance with paragraphs 3 and 4 shall be marked with the words “public debate”.

The opening to the public of Council deliberations and public debates in accordance with this Article shall be made through public transmission by audiovisual means, notably in an overflow room and through broadcasting in all official languages of the institutions of the European Union using video-streaming. A recorded version shall remain available for at least one month on the Council's Internet site. The outcome of voting shall be indicated by visual means.

The General Secretariat shall as far as possible inform the public in advance of the dates and approximate time on which such audiovisual transmissions will take place and shall take all practical measures to ensure the proper implementation of this Article.


***

Public votes etc.

Legislative votes and explanations of votes as well as such minutes are made public.

The same principle applies with regard to common positions in relation to legislative acts in accordance with the codecision and the cooperation procedure and related Conciliation Committee proceedings, as well as statements concerning the establishment of a convention regarding police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters.

Various final votes are made public.


Article 9
Making public votes, explanations of votes and minutes

1. In addition to cases where Council deliberations are open to the public under Article 8(1), where the Council acts in its legislative capacity within the meaning of Article 7, the results of votes and explanations of votes by Council members, as well as the statements in the Council minutes and the items in those minutes relating to the adoption of legislative acts, shall be made public.

The same rule shall apply for:

(a) results of votes and explanations of votes, as well as the statements in the Council minutes and the items in those minutes relating to the adoption of a common position pursuant to Article 251 or Article 252 of the EC Treaty;

(b) results of votes and explanations of votes by members of the Council or their representatives on the Conciliation Committee set up by Article 251 of the EC Treaty, as well as the statements in the Council minutes and the items in those minutes relating to the Conciliation Committee meeting;

(c) results of votes and explanations of votes, as well as the statements in the Council minutes and the items in those minutes relating to the establishment by the Council of a convention on the basis of Title VI of the EU Treaty.

2. Moreover, the results of votes shall be made public:

(a) when the Council acts pursuant to Title V of the EU Treaty, by a unanimous Council or Coreper decision taken at the request of one of their members;

(b) when the Council adopts a common position within the meaning of Title VI of the EU Treaty, by a unanimous Council or Coreper decision taken at the request of one of their members;

(c) in other cases, by Council or Coreper decision taken at the request of one of their members.

When the result of a vote in the Council is made public in accordance with points (a), (b) and (c) of the first subparagraph, the explanations of votes made when the vote was taken shall also be made public at the request of the Council members concerned, with due regard for these Rules of Procedure, legal certainty and the interests of the Council.

Statements entered in the Council minutes and items in those minutes relating to the adoption of the acts referred to in points (a), (b) and (c) of the first subparagraph shall be made public by Council or Coreper decision taken at the request of one of their members.

3. Except in cases where Council deliberations are open to the public in accordance with Article 8, votes shall not be made public in the case of discussions leading to indicative votes or the adoption of preparatory acts.


***

Public access to Council documents

Public access to documents is a cornerstone of accountability and transparency. Article 10 of the Council’s Rules of Procedure refers to Annex II, which is presented below. Documents from and positions of member states are a special concern.

(The main rules are found in Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001. The Commission’s proposal to repeal and replace the Regulation by a new Regulation regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents; Brussels, 30.4.2008, COM(2008) 229 final 2008/0090 (COD), is a hotly discussed issue between the EU institutions and questioned by NGOs and experts, but that is another story).


Council’s Rules of Procedure:


Article 10
Public access to Council documents
The specific provisions regarding public access to Council documents are set out in Annex II.

***

Specific provisions



ANNEX II
SPECIFIC PROVISIONS REGARDING PUBLIC ACCESS TO COUNCIL DOCUMENTS



Article 1
Scope

Any natural or legal person shall have access to Council documents subject to the principles, conditions and limits laid down in Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 and the specific provisions laid down in this Annex.



Article 2
Consultation as regards third-party documents

1. For the purpose of applying Article 4(5) and Article 9(3) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 and unless it is clear, upon examination of the document in the light of Article 4(1), (2) and (3) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, that it shall not be disclosed, the third party concerned shall be consulted if:

(a) the document is a sensitive document as defined in Article 9(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001;

(b) the document originates from a Member State and

was submitted to the Council before 3 December 2001; or

the Member State concerned requested that it not be disclosed without its prior agreement.

2. In all other cases, where the Council receives an application for a third-party document in its possession, the General Secretariat, for the purpose of applying Article 4(4) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, shall consult the third party concerned unless it is clear, upon examination of the document in the light of Article 4(1), (2) and (3) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, that it shall or shall not be disclosed.

3. The third party shall be consulted in writing (including by e-mail) and be given a reasonable time limit for its reply, taking into account the time limit laid down in Article 7 of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001. In the cases referred to in paragraph 1, the third party shall be asked to give its opinion in writing.

4. Where the document does not fall within paragraph 1(a) or (b) and the General Secretariat, in the light of the third party's negative opinion, is not satisfied that Article 4(1) or (2) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 is applicable, the Council shall be seized of the matter.

If the Council envisages the release of the document, the third party shall be informed immediately in writing of the Council's intention to release the document after a time period of at least 10 working days. At the same time, the third party's attention shall be drawn to Article 243 of the EC Treaty.



Article 3
Requests for consultation received from other institutions or from Member States

Requests for consultations with the Council made by another institution or a Member State concerning an application for a Council document shall be sent via e-mail to access@consilium.europa.eu or by fax to (32-2) 281 63 61.

The General Secretariat shall give its opinion on behalf of the Council promptly, taking into account any time limit required for a decision to be made by the institution or the Member State concerned, and at the latest within five working days.



Article 4
Documents originating from Member States

Any request by a Member State under Article 4(5) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 shall be made in writing to the General Secretariat.



Article 5
Referral of requests by Member States

When a Member States refers to a request to the Council, it shall be handled in accordance with Articles 7 and 8 of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 and the relevant provisions of this Annex. In the event of a total or partial refusal of access, the applicant shall be informed that any confirmatory application must be addressed directly to the Council.



Article 6
Address for applications

Applications for access to a document shall be addressed in writing to the Secretary-General of the Council/High Representative, rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 175, B-1048 Brussels, by e-mail to access@consilium.europa.eu or by fax to (32-2) 281 63 61.



Article 7
Processing of initial applications

Subject to Article 9(2) and (3) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, any application for access to a Council document shall be handled by the General Secretariat.



Article 8
Processing of confirmatory applications

Subject to Article 9(2) and (3) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, any confirmatory application shall be decided upon by the Council.



Article 9
Charges

The charges for producing and sending copies of Council documents shall be set by the Secretary-General.



Article 10
Public register of Council documents

1. The General Secretariat shall be responsible for providing public access to the register of Council documents.

2. In addition to the references to documents, it shall be indicated in the register which documents drawn up after 1 July 2000 have already been released to the public. Subject to Regulation (EC) No 45/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2000 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data by the Community institutions and bodies and on the free movement of such data (1) and Article 16 of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, their content shall be made available on the Internet.



Article 11
Documents directly accessible to the public

1. This Article shall apply to all Council documents, provided that they are not classified and without prejudice to the possibility of making a written application in accordance with Article 6 of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001.

2. For the purpose of this Article:

— “circulation” shall mean distribution of the final version of a document to the members of the Council, their representatives or delegates,

— “legislative document” shall mean any document concerning the examination and adoption of a legislative act within the meaning of Article 7 of the Rules of Procedure.

3. The General Secretariat shall make the following documents available to the public as soon as they have been circulated:

(a) documents of which neither the Council nor a Member State is the author, which have been made public by their author or with his agreement;

(b) provisional agenda for meetings of the Council in its various configurations;

(c) any text adopted by the Council and intended to be published in the Official Journal.

4. Provided that they are clearly not covered by any of the exceptions laid down in Article 4 of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, the General Secretariat may also make the following documents available to the public as soon as they have been circulated:

(a) provisional agenda of committees and working parties;

(b) other documents, such as information notes, reports, progress reports and reports on the state of discussions in the Council or one of its preparatory bodies which do not reflect individual positions of delegations, excluding Legal Service opinions and contributions.

5. The General Secretariat shall make the following legislative documents available to the public, in addition to the documents referred to in paragraphs 3 and 4, as soon as they have been circulated:

(a) cover notes and copies of letters concerning legislative acts addressed to the Council by other institutions or bodies of the European Union or, subject to Article 4(5) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, by a Member State;

(b) documents submitted to the Council which are listed under an item on its agenda marked with the words “public deliberation” or “public debate” in accordance with Article 8 of the Rules of Procedure;

(c) notes submitted to Coreper and/or to the Council for approval (I/A and A item notes), as well as the draft legislative acts to which they refer;

(d) decisions adopted by the Council during the procedure referred to in Article 251 of the EC Treaty and joint texts approved by the Conciliation Committee.

6. After adoption of one of the decisions referred to in paragraph 5(d) or final adoption of the act concerned, the General Secretariat shall make available to the public any legislative documents relating to this act which were drawn up before one of such decisions and which are not covered by any of the exceptions laid down in Article 4(1), (2) and (3), second subparagraph, of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, such as information notes, reports, progress reports and reports on the state of discussions in the Council or in one of its preparatory bodies (outcomes of proceedings), excluding Legal Service opinions and contributions.

At the request of a Member State, documents which are covered by the first subparagraph and reflect the individual position of that Member State's delegation in the Council shall not be made available to the public under these provisions.


***

Readers are welcome to share their experiences of the Council’s work methods and opennessi including the functionality of its web pages and search functions.

After this detour, the next instalment in this series is going to return the matters subject to the special legislative procedure, not yet covered in the previous posts.


Ralf Grahn

European elections and EU citizens

The think tank Notre Europe has published an interesting policy brief by Renaud Dehousse on the gap between the legislation the institutions of the European Union (are treaty bound to) produce and the expectations of EU citizens: L’action de l’Union répond-elle aux preferences des citoyens ? (25 April 2009; 4 pages).




How much does the difference between demand and offer diminish participation in the European elections?

The bulk of legislative output concerns agriculture and fisheries as well as the internal market.

Citizens’ expectations concern measures against insecurity, immigration and the environment, followed by energy, social issues and solidarity with poorer regions.


Dehousse notes that the Commission has become more responsive to the expectations of citizens (than the other institutions).

***

Dehousse does not find it surprising that participation is on a downward trend. Citizens cannot decide the composition of the executive. Citizens’ preferences must be given a greater weight, by expressing their preferences for the President of the Commission and by reforming the exclusive right of the Commission to propose legislation. Meanwhile, the citizens themselves can become agents for change by voting for candidates whose visions of Europe resemble their own:


Dans ces conditions, la baisse régulière du taux de participation aux élections européennes n’a rien pour surprendre. Pourquoi les électeurs se passionneraient- ils pour une consultation qui ne leur permet pas de peser sur la désignation de l’exécutif , ou pour un système politique dont les priorités leur paraissent éloignées des leurs ? Pour redonner du sens au vote européen, il faut trouver une façon de donner plus de poids aux préférences des citoyens, que ce soit en leur permettant d’exprimer leurs préférences quant au choix du président de la Commission, comme l’a proposé Notre Europe, ou en réfléchissant à une réforme des dispositions qui réservent à la Commission l’initiative en matière législative. Et les électeurs eux-mêmes peuvent s’ériger en acteurs du changement en apportant leur voix à des candidats qui s’engageraient à utiliser la panoplie des pouvoirs dont disposent les parlementaires pour défendre la vision de l’Europe à laquelle ils adhèrent.



Ralf Grahn

Saturday 25 April 2009

EU: Progress in the area of freedom, security and justice (AFSJ)

One of the most important policy fields of the European Union (European Community), in addition to the original common market (later internal market), is the evolving area of freedom, security and justice (AFSJ), in British parlance often referred to as Justice and Home Affairs (JHA).

Currently, it is split between intergovernmental police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, provided for by the Treaty on European Union (TEU), and other issues, treated in the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC).

The Treaty of Lisbon would achieve a degree of normalcy, by bringing the basic rules together under Title V Area of freedom, security and justice, more or less in line with other policy areas subject to ‘Community legislation’.

The AFSJ is relevant for EU citizens and third country nationals, and it is one of the most rapidly evolving policy areas, despite exasperating procedures for parts of decision-making.


***

European Parliament

The European Parliament has held its annual debate on the progress made in the area of freedom, security and justice.

By 313 votes to 56, with 6 abstentions, the European Parliament voted a resolution, which can be found in the provisional compilation of texts adopted Friday 24 April 2009.




The heading of the resolution is (on page 277):



P6_TA-PROV(2009)0329

Annual debate on the progress made in 2008 in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (AFSJ)

European Parliament resolution of 24 April 2009 on the annual debate on the progress made in 2008 in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (AFSJ) (Articles 2 and 39 of the EU Treaty)


***


Resolution

The European Parliament states the support of EU citizens for European level action, and it notes the evolving character of the area of freedom, security and justice. But the EP also remarks on a number of obstacles to progress (at member state level).

***


Lisbon Treaty crucial

The European Parliament underlines the importance of the Treaty of Lisbon, with the following arguments:


Calls on those Member States which have not ratified the Treaty of Lisbon to do so as soon as possible, as it will overcome the more significant shortcomings in the AFSJ by:

– creating a more coherent, transparent and legally sound framework,

– strengthening the protection of fundamental rights by giving binding force to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union ('the Charter') and by allowing the EU to accede to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms,

– empowering citizens of the Union and civil society by involving them in the legislative process and granting them greater access to the Court of Justice of the European Communities (ECJ),

– involving the European Parliament and national parliaments in the evaluation of EU policies, thereby making European and national administrations more accountable.


***

Stockholm Programme

After the Tampere Programme and the Hague Programme, the European Union is preparing its next five year programme for the development of the area of freedom, security and justice. It will probably be known as the Stockholm Programme. These are the greetings from the European Parliament to the Commission and the member states’ governments:


The European Parliament calls on the European Council, the Council and the Commission to:

(a) formally involve the newly elected European Parliament in the adoption of the next multiannual AFSJ programme for the period 2010-2014, as this programme, after the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, should be mainly implemented by the Council and Parliament by way of the codecision procedure; given that such a multiannual programme should also go far beyond the suggestions contained in the reports of the Council Future Groups, national parliaments should also be involved as they should play an essential role in shaping the priorities and in implementing them at national level;

(b) focus on the future multiannual programme, and primarily on the improvement of fundamental and citizens' rights, as recently recommended by Parliament in its resolution of 14 January 2009 on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union 2004-2008, by developing the objectives and principles laid down in the Charter, which the institutions proclaimed in Nice in 2000 and again in Strasbourg on 12 December 2007.


***

Citizens’ rights

The EP resolution contains a number of concrete requests for improvements with regard to EU citizens’ rights.

There is no doubt that the policy issues involved are important for individuals, both EU citizens and third country nationals, since they comprise:

Free movement of persons
Visa policy
EU external borders policy
Schengen area
Immigration
Asylum
Judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters
Drugs policy coordination
EU citizenship
Data protection
Fundamental rights
Racisim and xenophobia
Police and customs cooperation
Crime prevention
Fight against organised crime
External dimension of AFSJ
Enlargement from an AFSJ perspective




Ralf Grahn

EU: Application of Community Law

Yesterday the European Parliament fired a broadside against the Commission’s handling of its responsibilities and its failures to remedy the problems the EP had remarked upon earlier.

The application of Community law is a cornerstone of the European Union. As “guardian of the Treaties”, the Commission has a duty to monitor the correct implementation of Community legislation, which is crucial for EU citizens and businesses engaged in cross-border activities.


Yesterday’s resolution is an example that seemingly dull reports can be both “hot stuff” and important for citizens and businesses.

***

European Parliament

On Friday, the European Parliament voted on a resolution based on a report by the Committee on Legal Affairs (rapporteur Monica Frassoni) with regard to the application of Community Law. The resolution was adopted by 297 votes, against 13, with 7 abstentions.

At this stage, you can find the adopted resolution in the compilation of texts adopted Friday 24 April 2009 (from page 311).


The exact references are:

P6_TA-PROV(2009)0335

25th annual report from the Commission on monitoring the application of Community law (2007)

European Parliament resolution of 24 April 2009 on the 25th annual report from the Commission on monitoring the application of Community law (2007) (2008/2337(INI))

***

Parliamentary scrutiny

The main document under scrutiny was the 25th annual report from the Commission on monitoring the application of Community law (2007) (COM(2008)0777).

The accompanying Commission staff working documents (SEC(2008)2854 and SEC(2008)2855), as well as the Commission Communication of 5 September 2007 entitled “A Europe of results – applying Community law” (COM(2007)0502), and the Commission Communication of 20 March 2002 on relations with the complainant in respect of infringements of Community law (COM(2002)0141), formed the basis for the EP’s own initiative report.

The resolution is critical of the Commission’s activities as the “guardian of the Treaties”.

The European Parliament regrets that, unlike in the past, the Commission has not responded in any way to the issues raised by Parliament in its previous resolutions, in particular its resolution of 21 February 2008; notes the lack of significant improvement with regard to the three fundamental issues of transparency, resources and the length of procedures.


The rest of the resolution lists specific criticisms of the Commission’s handling of one of its core tasks.

***

Citizenship Directive

I would like to pick out one detail, of concrete interest to EU citizens and their families, the resolution text concerning the so called Citizenship Directive 2004/38/EC (point 15), where the criticism is aimed more at the member states than at the Commission:


Notes that the Commission has declared that a fundamental directive such as Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States has for all practical purposes not been properly transposed in any Member State; notes that the Commission has received more than 1 800 individual complaints in relation to that directive, registering 115 of them as complaints and opening five cases of infringement on the grounds of failure to apply the directive properly, recognises that the Commission has worked with Parliament to useful effect and in a spirit of openness where Directive 2004/38/EC is concerned; endorses the Commission’s proposed approach, whereby the directive is to be kept under continuous and exhaustive review, support, in the form of guidelines to be published in the first half of 2009, is to be provided to help Member States apply the directive fully and properly, and infringement proceedings are to be instituted against Member States whose legislation does not conform to the directive; expresses grave concern, however, as to the Commission’s ability to perform its role as “guardian of the Treaty” and the opportunity afforded to Parliament to check the complaint registration policy implemented by the various Commission departments;

***


The resolution is instructive reading for everyone interested in the rights of EU citizens and businesses, and together with the Commission documents it offers a number of avenues for reasearch.

Even if an own initiative report is not legally binding, it would be surprising if the Commission does not spring into action after the broadside delivered by the European Parliament.


Ralf Grahn

EU: New E-Money Directive

The European Parliament has approved the text of a new E-Money Directive, aimed at providing the internal market with a legal framework, which removes obstacles to market entry. The Directive is meant to be transposed by the EU member states into national law by 2011.

***

European Parliament

The European Parliament has approved the text of a new E-Money Directive. At this stage, the adopted text can be found in the compilation of resolutions adopted on Friday 24 April 2009 (from page 142).



Here are the exact references:

P6_TA-PROV(2009)0322

The business of electronic money institutions ***I

European Parliament legislative resolution of 24 April 2009 on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the taking up, pursuit and prudential supervision of the business of electronic money institutions, amending Directives 2005/60/EC and 2006/48/EC and repealing Directive 2000/46/EC (COM(2008)0627 – C6-0350/2008 – 2008/0190(COD))

(Codecision procedure: first reading)

***

Scope

Article 1 of the E-Money Directive lays down the scope:

Article 1
Subject matter and scope

1. This Directive lays down the rules for the ▌pursuit ▌of the ▌activity of issuing electronic money in accordance with which Member States shall distinguish the following five categories of electronic money issuers:

(a) credit institutions, as defined in point 1 of Article 4 of Directive 2006/48/EC, including, in accordance with national law, branches within the meaning of point 3 of Article 4 of that Directive located in the Community in accordance with Article 38 of the same Directive of credit institutions having their head offices outside the Community;

(b) electronic money institutions, as defined in point 1 of Article 2 including, in accordance with national law and Article 8, branches located in the Community of the electronic money institutions having their head offices outside the Community;

(c) post office giro institutions which are entitled under national law to issue electronic money;

(d) the European Central Bank and national central banks when not acting in their capacity as monetary authority or other public authorities;

(e) Member States or their regional or local authorities when acting in their capacity as public authorities.

2. Title II of this Directive also lays down the rules for the taking up, the pursuit and the prudential supervision of the business of electronic money institutions.

3. Member States may waive the application of all or part of the provisions of Title II of this Directive to the institutions referred to in Article 2 of Directive 2006/48/EC, with the exception of those referred to in the first and second indent of that Article.

4. This Directive does not apply to monetary value stored on instruments exempted as specified in Article 3(k) of Directive 2007/64/EC.

5. This Directive does not apply to monetary value that is used to make payment transactions exempted as specified in Article 3(l) of Directive 2007/64/EC.


***


Commission response

The Commission issued an explanatory press release, which welcomed the EP resolution:

European Commission welcomes the European Parliament’s adoption of two proposals in the area of payments (on e-money and cross-border payments) (24 April 2009; IP/09/637)



***

Final adoption

The new Directive is now heading for final adoption by the Council and subsequent publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU).


Ralf Grahn

EU: New Regulation on cross-border payments

The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) takes a further step towards completion. The Payment Services Directive (PSD) 2007/64/EC, which will be implemented from 1 November 2009, is going to be complemented by a new Regulation on cross-border payments, which extends the principle of equal charges for national and cross-border payments to direct debits.

***

European Parliament

The European Parliament has approved the text of a new Regulation on cross-border payments. At this stage, the adopted text can be found in the compilation of resolutions adopted on Friday 24 April 2009 (from page 129).


Here are the exact references:

P6_TA-PROV(2009)0321

Cross-border payments in the Community ***I

European Parliament legislative resolution of 24 April 2009 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on cross-border payments in the Community (COM(2008)0640 – C6-0352/2008 – 2008/0194(COD))
(Codecision procedure: first reading)

***

Scope

Article 1 of the new Regulation presents its scope:

Article 1

Subject matter and scope

1. This Regulation lays down rules on cross-border payments within the Community, ensuring that charges for those payments are the same as those for payments in the same currency within a Member State.

2. This Regulation applies to cross-border payments, in accordance with the provisions of Directive 2007/64/EC, which are denominated in euro or in the national currencies of the Member States which have notified their intention to extend the application of the Regulation to their national currency, in accordance with Article 14.

3. This Regulation does not apply to payments made by payment service providers for their own account or on behalf of other payment service providers.

4. Articles 6, 7 and 8 lay down rules regarding direct debit transactions denominated in euro between the payment service providers of the payee and of the payer.


***

Commission response

The Commission issued an explanatory press release, which welcomed the EP resolution:

European Commission welcomes the European Parliament’s adoption of two proposals in the area of payments (on e-money and cross-border payments) (24 April 2009; IP/09/637)



***

Final adoption

The new Regulation is now heading for final adoption by the Council and subsequent publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU).


Ralf Grahn

Friday 24 April 2009

Elections in Iceland (continued) & Baltic states: perplexing euro adoption

Yesterday I admitted to being mystified by some Icelanders’ optimism regarding adoption of the euro currency, while rejecting membership in the European Union, or even membership negotiations.

Among the reasons for my perplexity in Iceland & EU: Monetary union only? (23 April 2009) were the existing exceptions, according to Wikipedia Montenegro, Kosovo, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, the Vatican.



***

FT Brussels blog

Today I see that Tony Barber of the FT Brussels blog had posted on another angle of the same problem: Hands up if you’d like to use the euro! (23 April 2009).



Barber appears to be as puzzled as I am over the fact that the Baltic states have laboured hard to become members of the European Union and to prepare for adoption of the single currency. But the European Central Bank refuses to ease the rules to let Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in, despite the hardship caused by the economic crisis.

All the while, Montenegro and Kosovo have used and keep using the euro, without being members of the EU or subject to the rules of the economic and monetary union (EMU).

Amazing!

***

By the rules

Whether Iceland or new EU member states in Central Europe, my post yesterday only indicated the basic premises for the euro currency, by a quote from the Preamble of the Treaty on European Union (TEU).

If a country follows the rules, it has to:

1. Become a member of the European Union, and participate in economic policy coordination.
2. Fulfil the convergence criteria, also known as the Maastricht criteria (low inflation, budget deficit, government debt level, participation in the Exchange Rate mechanism, low interest rates).


Some humanity, solidarity, logic and enlightenment seem to be in order.


Ralf Grahn

Nosemonkey for hire: editing, writing & online content

J Clive Matthews of Nosemonkey’s EUtopia is not only a fellow Euroblogger with learning and temperament to discuss the European Union critically and to explain its workings to his less informed and more opinionated readers.

Professionally J Clive Matthews has an impressive record as editor, writer and online content producer. When communication skills are needed more than ever, Matthews is looking for new opportunities to serve clients.

Don’t let this opportunity pass!



Ralf Grahn

Aland Islands: Regional voice in EU affairs

For a small region, the Aland Islands have a strong voice in national EU affairs. Now the Finnish Government proposes enhancements, which may be of interest ─ apprehension or hope ─ to other central governments and regions in Europe.

***

A few days ago we wrote about the slow procedure concerning the approval of the EU Treaty of Lisbon in Aland Islands: Lisbon Treaty (21 April 2009).



***

Latest proposals

Preparation of EU affairs

The Government of Finland has now approved guidelines on how the small province (population 27,500) can partake in the preparation of EU affairs. Åland already is involved in the 30 something ministerial sections covering all EU affairs and in the EU committee consisting of the highest civil servants where they are brought together before being passed on to the Government’s EU committee, which coordinates EU affairs. Åland can also make its case directly to the ministers in the Government’s EU committee.

(All EU proposals and Council meetings are scrutinised by the Parliament – especially the Grand Committee - and Åland is represented there too, but that is another story.)

The aim of new guidelines is to find common positions between Finland (the member state) and Åland on all issues of interest to the region. If this proves to be impossible, the position of Åland will be communicated to the EU institutions in addition to Finland’s official view.

Infringement cases

Infringement cases are problematic, because Finland is responsible for implementing Community legislation in relation to the European Union. But if the issue at hand is part of the areas subject to autonomous legislation or administration by the regional authorities, there is little the member state can do, if Åland fails to fulfil an obligation under the treaty. (Politically Åland has undertaken to finance the penalty payments in such cases.)

The Government proposes amendments to the Act on the Autonomy of Åland. The amendments require approval by both the Parliament of Finland and the Åland Parliament. Their aim is to guarantee that Åland can make its case in Finland’s reply to the Commission and to the Court of Justice. Åland can appear in oral proceedings and the region can propose that Finland brings a matter before the Court of Justice.

The Government’s press release in Finnish and in Swedish (23 April 2009).



The detailed guidelines are available in Finnish (4 pages), but I did not find them in Swedish (yet?).



The Government bill will probably be formally sent to the Parliament after the presidential session later today. For those who are interested in the details, but not pressed for time, the text of the proposal will be found in Finnish and Swedish on the legislative information portal Finlex in about a week.


Ralf Grahn

Bulletin of the European Union ─ EU information sources

Are you a student, researcher, journalist, politician (MEP candidate), lobbyist, official or an interested citizen in need of updated information about the European Union in a given policy area?

Google has long ago become a verb, but for systematic information there are other resources worth mentioning.

EU Bulletin

Yesterday, 23 April 2009 the Bulletin of the European Union for December 2008 was published online.



General Report

The annual General Report on the Activities of the European Union (latest for the year 2008) offers students and others an overview of developments and sources concerning different policy areas.

EU Bulletin – final version

The monthly Bulletins present updated information. The new Bulletin EU 12-2008 covers the month of December, and it is the final version.

EU Bulletin – provisional versions

Quicker updates are available on the Bulletin EU Home page. At this moment, two provisional versions are available: The January/February Bulletin was published 25 March 2009, and the March Bulletin 2009 was put online 23 April 2009 (so the time lag was only about three weeks).



Almost up-to-date

Taken together, the General Report and the Bulletin offer comprehensive information with detailed references for further study, leaving the researcher only a few weeks to explore from other sources, to be fully updated on an issue of major importance.

Once you have exact references, you may more easily find additional information on the web pages of the institutions, even the Council.

In addition, the EU Bulletin pages contain useful links to acronyms, a glossary, Pre-Lex with Commission proposals and summaries of existing legislation. (The links to the index and the cumulative index did not work.)

Official Journal

The Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) is the primary source to use for official EU materials, especially final legislative acts and decisions.

News and discussion

If you need the latest news, you can go directly to the press releases by the EU institutions (Commission, European Parliament, Council etc.) or you can follow the specialised news services with additional coverage, such as EurActiv, EUobserver and EUbusiness. For discussion among EU citizens and civil society, you can access Bloggingportal.eu, which aggregates 345 Euroblogs.





Ralf Grahn

Thursday 23 April 2009

Iceland & EU: Monetary union only?

In two days (Saturday 25 April 2009) Iceland is going to vote on a new parliament, after the meltdown of the country’s financial sector and economy.

For a look at the background, you can read Iceland’s EU questions unanswered ahead of vote on EUbusiness (23 April 2009).



A few months ago, several reports indicated that the Icelandic population would be ready to change their status as part of the European Economic Area (EEA) into membership of the European Union. Later news items and blog posts have told us that many voters would want to adopt the euro currency, fewer would be prepared to start negotiations on EU membership, and even fewer imagine they would accept the accession terms.

Only the social democratic party (estimated to gain 31 per cent of the vote) is committed to EU membership.

***

Monetary union?

This situation has left me wondering if the voters in Iceland have secret knowledge, or if they are unwittingly optimistic about adopting a foreign currency.

Right at the start of the Treaty on European Union the Preamble states:

RESOLVED to achieve the strengthening and the convergence of their economies and to establish an economic and monetary union including, in accordance with the provisions of this Treaty, a single and stable currency,
---


***

EMU


The economic and monetary union (EMU) includes the common currency. Iceland is not a protectorate or an enclave, but a sovereign state. Could it dispense with economic union, meaning coordination of economic policies, the stability and growth pact and all the rest, and just go straight for the euro currency?

To my knowledge, there is no such indication in the treaties, but I am doubtful because of the existing exceptions, according to Wikipedia Montenegro, Kosovo, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, the Vatican).



Or are the Icelanders thinking about adopting the euro unilaterally, without asking anyone?

I have to admit that I am mystified.


Ralf Grahn

Economic crisis: EU state aid overview

The financial sector catastrophy and economic recession have led to enormous pressures on Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes and her services.

The Commission has done its best to guide national administrations and EU businesses on the available options and the (changing) limits set to rescue measures, while working on the concrete packages proposed by the member states.

The latest compilation is the press release State aid: Overview of national measures adopted as a response to the financial and economic crisis (22 April 2009, MEMO/09/174), which summarises the guidance (Communications) from the Commission and the decisions adopted with regard to the financial sector and the real economy, as of 22 April 2009.




Ralf Grahn

Wednesday 22 April 2009

European election FAQs

The European Parliament tells us that it has been deluged by questions about the upcoming European elections. It has now posted answers to four basic but frequently asked questions (FAQs), about the election dates, possible national holidays and links to D-Day, and the different dates (but simultaneous publication of results).



Worth a quick look.


Ralf Grahn

ECB: TARGET2-Securities Programme Board

A further step on the road to an operational borderless pan-European cash and securities settlement system.

See the Decision of the European Central Bank ECB/2009/6 of 19 March 2009 on the establishment of the TARGET2-Securities Programme Board, which has been published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) 22.4.2009 L 102/12.



Article 1
T2S Programme Board

1. The T2S Programme Board shall be established as a streamlined management body of the Eurosystem with the task of developing proposals for the Governing Council on key strategic issues and executing tasks of a purely technical nature in relation to T2S.

2. The mandate of the T2S Programme Board, including its objectives, responsibilities, tasks, composition, working procedures, and budget, shall be as set out in the Annex to this Decision.

3. The names and resumés of candidates to be considered for appointment to the T2S Programme Board members shall be sent by members of the Governing Council to the Executive Board so that they are received no later than 8 April 2009. On the basis of such proposals, the Governing Council shall appoint members of the T2S Programme Board on 23 April 2009.

4. The T2S Programme Board shall commence work from mid-May 2009.

5. The T2S Programme Board shall communicate its agenda, a summary of its meetings and relevant documentation in relation to its meetings to the members of the PSSC to allow the latter to provide input to the T2S Programme Board.


***

TARGET2 – cash and securities settlement

The appointment of the TARGET2-Securities Programme Board is a further step to make the system operational:

At its meeting of 6 July 2006, the Governing Council of the European Central Bank (ECB) decided to explore, in cooperation with central securities depositories (CSDs) and other market participants, the possibility of setting up a new Eurosystem service for securities settlement, to be called TARGET2-Securities (T2S). As part of its tasks in accordance with Articles 17, 18 and 22 of the Statute of the ESCB, the Eurosystem envisages that T2S will be a service based on a single platform allowing for core, neutral and borderless pan-European cash and securities settlement, which will be offered to CSDs to enable them to provide their customers with harmonised and commoditised delivery-versus-payment settlement services in central bank money in an integrated technical environment.



Ralf Grahn

EU: Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency

There is now a new Commission Decision 2009/336/EC of 20 April 2009 setting up the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency for the management of Community action in the fields of education, audiovisual and culture in application of Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003; published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) 21.4.2009 L 101/26.


The Brussels based Agency is entrusted with the management of a great number of Community programmes, both intra-EU and international.

***

Executive agencies

The reference to Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 in the headline means that there are standard administrative rules in place for Executive Agencies, which means that the individual acts can be fairly short (and it saves a lot of ink, when administrative provisions can be amended by changing one Regulation instead of scores of acts).

See Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 of 19 December 2002 laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes; OJEU 16.1.2003 l 11/1.



Article 1
Aim

This Regulation lays down the statute of executive agencies to which the Commission, under its own control and responsibility, may entrust certain tasks relating to the management of Community programmes.



Ralf Grahn

Tuesday 21 April 2009

European Union: Justice abroad (Brussels I)

The Commission is moving on the so called Brussels I Regulation, officially Council Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 of 22 December 2000 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters, published in the Official Journal of the European Communities (OJEC) 16.1.2001 L 12/1.

The latest consolidated version is of 4 December 2008.




Report on Brussels I Regulation

Green Paper on Brussels I

For a quick overview, you can read the press release European citizens and business to benefit from greater access to justice – strengthening co-operation in civil and commercial matters (21 April 2009; IP/09/606).




***


There were no links in the press release to the Report or to the Green Paper (consultation paper), and I was unable to locate them on the pages of the Directorate-General for Justice, Freedom and Security or the Pre-Lex pages, so interested readers have to try again later.


Ralf Grahn

European elections: Federalist manifesto

The European elections are getting closer, but without top candidates or a real debate on the challenges for Europe in a changing world.

Perhaps time to look at what the Union of European Federalists (UEF) has to say in its manifesto Stronger together in a federal Europe, the clearest constructive election programme I have seen to date.



Ralf Grahn

EU: Special legislative procedure (VII)

The European Union has the shapeliest clay feet among international treaty based organisations.

Our Odyssey of the Council of the European Union and the special legislative procedure continues, taking us through the consolidated version of the Lisbon Treaty, published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) 9.5.2008 C 115.


***

Energy taxes

According to Article 194 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), energy policy measures are generally taken in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure. Fiscal measures form an exception, being subject to unanimity and a special legislative procedure, where the European Parliament is only consulted:

Article 194(3) TFEU

3. By way of derogation from paragraph 2, the Council, acting in accordance with a special legislative procedure, shall unanimously and after consulting the European Parliament, establish the measures referred to therein when they are primarily of a fiscal nature.


***

Associated overseas countries and territories

The association of overseas countries and territories is in the hands of the Council.


Article 203 TFEU
(ex Article 187 TEC)

The Council, acting unanimously on a proposal from the Commission, shall, on the basis of the experience acquired under the association of the countries and territories with the Union and of the principles set out in the Treaties, lay down provisions as regards the detailed rules and the procedure for the association of the countries and territories with the Union. Where the provisions in question are adopted by the Council in accordance with a special legislative procedure, it shall act unanimously on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the European Parliament.


***

International agreements

Some agreements with third countries or international organisations outside the exclusive scope of the common foreign and security policy may need the consent of the European Parliament, despite the special legislative procedure, as indicated by Article 218(6)(a) TFEU:


Article 218(6)(a) TFEU

6. The Council, on a proposal by the negotiator, shall adopt a decision concluding the agreement.

Except where agreements relate exclusively to the common foreign and security policy, the Council shall adopt the decision concluding the agreement:

(a) after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament in the following cases:

(i) association agreements;

(ii) agreement on Union accession to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;

(iii) agreements establishing a specific institutional framework by organising cooperation procedures;

(iv) agreements with important budgetary implications for the Union;

(v) agreements covering fields to which either the ordinary legislative procedure applies, or the special legislative procedure where consent by the European Parliament is required.


***

European “election law”


A special legislative procedure applies to the uniform procedure for the European elections. Unanimity and ratifications have prevented that. This has left the second options of some common principles. As a consequence, the elections are not even held on the same day, but the European Parliament is given the uncommon role of proposing legislation:



Article 223 TFEU
(ex Article 190(4) and (5) TEC)

1. The European Parliament shall draw up a proposal to lay down the provisions necessary for the election of its Members by direct universal suffrage in accordance with a uniform procedure in all Member States or in accordance with principles common to all Member States.

The Council, acting unanimously in accordance with a special legislative procedure and after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, which shall act by a majority of its component Members, shall lay down the necessary provisions. These provisions shall enter into force following their approval by the Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.


***

Future electoral reform?

There is a draft report by Andrew Duff of the European Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) on a proposal for a modification of the Act concerning the election of the Members of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage of 20 September 1976; 15.10.2008, 2007/2207(INI). It is awaiting EP decision.





Ralf Grahn