Saturday 3 July 2010

An own-initiative report in the European Parliament (Innovation Union)

Officially, it started with the Commission’s communication Reviewing Community innovation policy in a changing world; Brussels, 2.9.2009 COM(2009) 442 final. The paper launched a public consultation on the EU’s future innovation plan in the context of the post-Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs.

Own-initiative report

When the European Commission proposes (and coordinates), the European Council and the Council decide on policy guidelines, and the member states act and interact, without proposing new legislation, there is no legislative procedure for the European Parliament (EP) to take part in.

Rule 48 of the Rules of Procedure (version December 2009) offers the EP the possibility to draw up an own-initiative report, if the Conference of Presidents gives authorisation to the committee in question.

Legislative Observatory Oeil

With the help of the Legislative Observatory of the European Parliament, called Oeil, we can follow a procedure in the EP from the beginning to the end.

Under Procedures (which could add the word search), we can search on a number of different criteria.

Here we happen to know the Commission document, which opens a search page. After typing in the document type, year and number, we get the search result:

The procedure number, the name of the Commission document etc.

By clicking on the link to the procedure number INI/2009/2227, we can see the main steps and even the principal contents on one page, with links to further documents. The summary provides enough information for the general reader.

Useful or not?

We sometimes see views which are critical of the European Parliament “meddling” in affairs where it lacks legislative powers.

Is this view justified?

In my opinion, no.

First of all, the EP has powers over the EU budget as a whole, so it needs to have a view on the substance of union action, even when it takes place between the Commission, the Council and the member states.

Second, the EP is needed for political control (scrutiny) of action by the other institutions.

Third, even where the EP’s powers are weak, such as in foreign and security policy, it is preferable that the representatives of EU citizens use their limited powers actively and build their institutional knowledge base with a view to the day when the EU gets a politically accountable government.

Some of the criticism mentioned above may stem from irritation with silly or populist demands in EP resolutions.

The European Parliament is hardly the only elected body tempted to wish for all kinds of wonderful things, but in the long run it is important for the EP to be seen as a serious player.

Innovation Union

With an own-initiative report, the European Parliament was free to decide the time and the contents. While formally started in response to the Commission’s consultation paper (Green Paper), the EP adopted its resolution P7_TA(2010)0209 on 15 June 2010, just two days before the European Council finalised the guidelines for the Europe 2020 strategy, which includes the flagship initiative Innovation Union.

The EP resolution clearly targets the coming Commission communication on Innovation Union, expected in September.

Worth taking a look, if you are a stakeholder.

Ralf Grahn

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