European Scrutiny Committee Contents


11   Relations between the European Parliament and the Commission

(32090)

12717/10

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

Legal baseArticle 295 TFEU; —
Document originated29 July 2010
Deposited in Parliament28 October 2010
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationEM of 21 December 2010; Minister's letter of 21 December 2010
Previous Committee ReportHC 428-vii (2010-11), chapter 3 (10 November 2010)
To be discussed in CouncilNo date set
Committee's assessmentLegally and politically important
Committee's decisionCleared

Background

11.1  The Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the Commission has been revised in order to take account of the reforms introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon. The Agreement, first adopted in 1990 and update every five years, 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 European Parliament proceedings. The key elements of the 2010 revision are set out in our previous Report.[48]

Previous scrutiny

11.2  In a letter of 15 October depositing the Framework Agreement, the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) explained that there had been concern within the Council that the Framework Agreement could potentially breach the requirement for the Commission and the European Parliament to act within the limits of the powers conferred upon them by the Lisbon Treaty. As a consequence, there had been discussion as to whether the Council 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 considered that either or both institutions had applied the Framework Agreement in a way contrary to the Treaties. The Minister added that he was personally extremely concerned about any potential undermining of the inter-institutional balance arising from the Framework Agreement. Accordingly, the UK had been in the forefront of pushing within the Council for a robustly worded declaration in response to the Agreement.

11.3  We asked the Minister to deposit the declaration in due course, together with a more detailed explanation of the provisions to which the Council objects, the basis of the objection, the implications of those provisions for the inter-institutional balance; and also with his view of the likelihood of the Council bringing an action before the Court of Justice to annul an act of the Commission or European Parliament performed as a consequence of the Framework Agreement.

The Government's view

11.4  The Minister wrote on 21 December to apologise for not depositing the Council declaration earlier. In an Explanatory Memorandum of the same date, with a copy of the declaration (dated 23 October) annexed to it, the Minister explains that the 2010 Framework Agreement differs from the previous Agreement in four key respects:

"International relations: Provisions on sharing information around international negotiations and the requirement for the Commission to take due note of the Parliament's opinion (item 9, 19, 25 and annex 3). Point 21 stipulates that the Commission will facilitate the participation of Parliament in relevant meeting before and after negotiations.

"Legislation: Item 13a and parts of annex 1 provide the Parliament with access to meeting of national experts and a role in implementing legislation. Items 31 and 33 also amend the legislative procedure giving Parliament a greater say over amendments. The agreement also provides for Parliamentary involvement in non-binding initiatives of the Commission (item 36).

"Information: Requiring the Commission to forward certain confidential information to the Parliament (item 18 and annex 2). The agreement supports the Commission providing the Parliament with information on infraction proceedings in Member States (item 36).

"Appointments. It provides powers for the Parliament to hold hearings for the appointment of Executive Directors of regulatory agencies (item 26), and gives the Parliament the right to demand the resignation of individual Commissioners (items 3, 4 and 5). If the President of the Commission refuses, he will have to explain to the Parliament why he has done so."

11.5  He explains that the Council expressed concern in the declaration at the level of information that the agreement suggests will be shared with the European Parliament and the role that the European Parliament may gain in international relations. For example, the provision by the Commission to the European Parliament of a summary of its infraction proceedings against the Member States "is possibly outside the Treaties". The Council is concerned that this may undermine the confidence of conversations between the Commission and Member States on infractions. There is also some concern that the commitment of the Commission to take account of the European Parliament's amendments during the legislative process restricts the Commission's autonomy.

11.6  However, whilst the Government believes that the Framework Agreement has the capacity to threaten the inter-institutional balance in these areas, it does not itself violate it. The Council has noted in the declaration its intention to monitor the operation of the Framework Agreement and warned that it would bring a legal challenge before the Court of Justice if it considers that any act or action of the European Parliament or of the Commission based on the Agreement would have an effect contrary to the interests of the Council and the prerogatives conferred upon it by the Treaties.

Conclusion

11.7  We thank the Minister for this update and clear the document from scrutiny.





48   See headnote. Back


 
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