Documents considered by the committee on 10 November 2010, including the following recommendation for debate: Safety of offshore oil and gas activities - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

3   Relations between the European Parliament and the Commission



Draft Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the Commission

Legal baseArticle 295 TFEU; —
Document originated29 July 2010
Deposited in Parliament28 July 2010
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationMinister's letter of 15 October 2010
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in CouncilNo date set
Committee's assessmentLegally and politically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared; further information requested


3.1  The Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the Commission, originally adopted in 1990, has been revised to take account of the reforms introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon.

The Document

3.2  The 2010 Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the European Commission (the Framework Agreement) inter alia defines the political responsibilities of each institution towards the other; lays down rules for the flow of information between them; aims to improve the planning and co-ordination of the two institutions' legislative procedures; and provides for rules on the Commission's participation in EP proceedings. Key elements in the revision of the Framework Agreement are set out below.


3.3  Paragraph 8 of the Framework Agreement requires the Commission to apply the principle of equal treatment in its relations with the European Parliament (EP) and the Council, especially with regard to access to meetings and the provision of information, in particular on legislative and budgetary matters. (That said, somewhat oddly, paragraph 10 goes on to say there will be a "special relationship" between the EP and the Commission, and lists the duties which the Commission performs as part of that relationship.)


3.4  Under paragraph 14 of the Framework Agreement, the Commission will report on the follow-up given to a request for legislation made by the EP under Article 225 TFEU within three months of the EP adopting its request. The Commission must submit a legislative proposal within a year of the EP's request or include the proposal in the next year's work programme. If the Commission does not submit a proposal, it must give a detailed explanation to the EP of the reasons why. 


3.5  Under this heading the Commission shall, pursuant to paragraph 36, make available "summary information to the Parliament about all infringement procedures, from the letter of formal notice, included, if so requested by Parliament, on a case-by-case basis and respecting the confidentiality rules, in particular those acknowledged by the Court of Justice of the European Union, on the issues concerned by the infringement procedure".


3.6  Under this heading a regular Question Hour with the President of the Commission and the Commissioners, including the Vice-President for External Relations/High-Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security, will be introduced (paragraph 37).

3.7  If the EP asks the Commission President to withdraw confidence in an individual Member of the Commission, the President must seriously consider whether he should request that Member to resign. The President shall then either require the resignation of that Member or explain his refusal to do so before the EP (paragraph 3).


3.8  The agreement stipulates that the Commission will provide the EP with immediate and full information at every stage of negotiations of international agreements, including the definition of negotiating directives; that it will take the EP's views "as far as possible" into account; that it will ensure that MEPs can have observer status within EU delegations handling international negotiations; and that channels should be established for the Commission to forward to the EP relevant confidential documents (paragraphs 19-25).


3.9  The College of the Commission shall meet on an annual basis with the EP's Conference of Presidents and the Conference of Committee Chairs prior to adopting the annual Work Programme. In addition to legislative proposals, the Work Programme shall include major soft law initiatives, and proposals for the simplification and withdrawal of legislation. The Commission's Work Programme thus becomes "the basis for a structured dialogue with the Parliament" (Annex 4).

The Government's view

3.10  In his letter of 15 October 2010 depositing the Framework Agreement, the Minister for Europe (David Lidington) explains that the latest version of the Framework Agreement was first issued to the Council on 29 July 2010. He explains that there has been concern within the Council that the Framework Agreement could potentially breach the requirement for the Commission and the EP to act within the limits of the powers conferred upon them by the Lisbon Treaty. He says that the Agreement confers powers on the European Parliament beyond the Treaty, for example on access to confidential information and giving it a greater role in international negotiations, and limits the Commission's autonomy, for example during the legislative process and in requesting the resignation of Commissioners.

3.11  In light of these concerns the Minister says there has been discussion within the Council as to whether it should issue an official declaration noting its intention to monitor the operation of the Framework Agreement and reserving its right to bring a legal challenge before the Court of Justice at a later date, if it considers that either or both institutions subsequently applies the Framework Agreement in a way contrary to the Treaties. He says he is extremely concerned over any potential undermining of the inter-institutional balance as set out in the Treaties arising from the Framework Agreement. Accordingly, the UK has been in the forefront in pushing within the Council to secure a robustly worded Council declaration in response to the Agreement, and will continue to push this line as discussions on these texts progress within the Council. He has made an undertaking to keep the Committee informed of further progress.

COSAC's view

3.12  The XLIII COSAC, which met from 31 May to 1 June, reviewed the draft Framework Agreement and made the following comments in its Contribution:[3]

"COSAC underlines that inter-institutional agreements should not in any circumstances affect the inter-institutional balance of the Union and the letter and the spirit of the Treaty on European Union.

"COSAC recalls that the independence of the European Commission should not be questioned and that the acts of the Council assume a particular significance for national Parliaments which exercise control of this body through their respective Governments. COSAC expects that respective prerogatives of all EU institutions be maintained, as defined in the Treaties, which entails no change in the status of the Council, thereby upholding the ability of national Parliaments and the European Parliament to influence European policy."


3.13  We thank the Minister for his letter and note that the Council has now issued a declaration on the Framework Agreement, which appeared in the Official Journal on 23 October.[4] This matter is of concern to us. We ask the Minister to deposit the declaration as soon as possible, together with a more detailed explanation indicating the provisions to which the Council objects, the basis of the objection, the implications of those provisions for the interinstitutional balance as provided for by the EU Treaties; and also with his view on the likelihood of the Council bringing an action before the Court of Justice to annul an act of the Commission or European Parliament performed in application of a provision of the Framework Agreement.

3.14  The Lisbon Treaty gives interinstitutional agreements such as this a legal base in the EU Treaties for the first time:

"The European Parliament, the Council and the Commission shall consult each other and by common agreement make arrangements for their cooperation. To that end, they may, in compliance with the Treaties, conclude interinstitutional agreements which may be of a binding nature." (Article 295 TFEU).

We note that this Article gives the Council the right to act as an equal participant in negotiations to conclude interinstitutional agreements, including the right to be consulted. It also emphasises the importance of "common agreement" between the institutions, no doubt to avoid just this type of institutional quarrel. So we ask the Minister to explain why the Council did not insist on participating in the negotiations to ensure that the powers conferred on the Commission and European Parliament were fully respected.

3 Back

4   OJ No. C 287 p.1, 23.10.2010.  Back

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