APPENDIX 3: COMMISSION 2006 ANNUAL REPORT
ON RELATIONS BETWEEN THE COMMISSION AND THE NATIONAL PARLIAMENTS |
The Barroso Commission has made its relations with
the national parliaments a top priority. For the first time a
Commission Member, Vice-President Wallström, is specifically
responsible for these relations. In February 2005 the Commission
adopted a ten-point plan codifying major aims related to partnership,
interconnection and mutual service. In a context of improved governance,
the plan aims to involve all relevant parties, particularly the
national parliaments, in European integration.
This new approach to the national parliaments was
developed further throughout 2006 and strengthened as part of
Plan D: Commissioners attended more than 100 meetings with national
parliaments in 2006. Cooperation with the national parliaments,
often facilitated by the European Parliament, has also been consolidated
by the interparliamentary meetings, in which the Commission took
an active part.
The Commission took a new initiative to involve national
parliaments more closely in European affairs. In its Communication
to the European Council "A Citizens' Agenda Delivering Results
For Europe" (COM (2006)211), adopted on 10 May 2006,
the Commission expressed its wish to "transmit directly all
new proposals and consultation papers to national parliaments,
inviting them to react so as to improve the process of policy
The European Council of 15 and 16 June 2006
welcomed the Commission's commitment. It called on the Commission
to "duly consider comments by national parliamentsin
particular with regards to the subsidiarity and proportionality
In order to make this commitment a reality the Commission
began providing national parliaments with non-legislative and
consultative documents and its new legislative proposals (except
for classified documents) in September 2006. These documents are
also transmitted to the European Parliament and the Council.
The Commission has introduced a new internal procedure
for taking action to respond to feedback from the national parliaments.
At this stage it would be premature to draw formal conclusions
regarding an initiative that was only implemented last autumn.
However, one year after the Communication of 10 May 2006,
it is worth taking stock of progress in our cooperation with the
2. Preliminary assessment of feedback received from
Encouraging participation levels
The national parliaments responded positively to
the new mechanism. During the first eight months of implementation
(four of which were in 2007), 83 opinions were expressed by 22
national parliaments on 44 Commission proposals. Approximately
one third of the opinions were expressed in the context of two
studies organised by the COSAC
that focused on questions of subsidiarity and proportionality:
- 15 opinions concerned the proposal
on divorce. Of these, 13 were positive apart from critical remarks
on the lack of justification in terms of subsidiarity. The Dutch
and Czech parliaments opposed the proposal on the grounds of subsidiarity
- 14 opinions concerned the proposal for completion
of the internal market for postal services. The French, Belgian
and Luxembourg parliaments and the German Bundesrat expressed
reservations about various elements of the proposal (date of implementation,
financing of universal service);
- The 53 remaining opinions concerned various Commission
documents, with only three proposals eliciting more than one opinion:
the Green Paper on modernising labour law, the Proposal for a
Directive setting out a framework for soil protection and the
proposal for a Directive on road infrastructure safety management.
These opinions concerned the Proposal's content, the current political
environment and subsidiarity and proportionality questions.
For the first time, one parliamentary assembly, the
French Senate, took the exchange and dialogue further by requesting
additional information from Commission in regard to the latter's
replies concerning four proposals. These were the two Proposals
for a Directive referred to above, the Proposal for a Regulation
banning the import, export and sale of cat and dog fur and the
proposal for a Directive on the prudential assessment of acquisitions
and increase of shareholdings in the financial sector.
Added value to be developed
Analysis has shown that it would be desirable to
closely monitor the new mechanism in order to maximise its potential.
In response to Ms Wallström's request for an initial evaluation
of the procedure, most letters received from the Speakers of the
national parliaments indicate that they are very satisfied with
this initiative to increase their involvement in European Affairs.
They have been driven to re-examine and, in certain cases, adapt
their working methods in their specific constitutional context.
Consequently, beyond simply creating expectations it will be necessary
to ensure that the new mechanism for political dialogue is useful
and bears fruit, while respecting the institutional balance established
in the Treaty.
In this regard, it should be emphasised that, apart
from the studies coordinated by the COSAC, the opinions of the
national parliaments come primarily from very active second chambers:
the French Senate, the House of Lords, the German Bundesrat, and
the Senate of Belgium (with the House of Representatives), the
Czech Republic and the Netherlands (both Houses meeting together)
submitted 55 opinions, 30 of which came from the French Senate
Some national parliaments, however, already systematically
examine Commission proposals in dialogue with their respective
executive branches and prefer to give priority to this means of
monitoring their governments' activities. Given the diverse constitutional
backgrounds of the national parliaments, it is to be expected
that their reactions will differ.
The Commission is pleased that its initiative has
generated increased interest in Community questions in general
and in its proposals in particular. It wishes to foster a political
dialogue with all the national parliaments in order to bring the
EU institutions closer to citizens via their nationally elected
3. Relations between the Commission and the National
Parliaments in 2006
3.1. New approach in February 2005
The new approach to relations between the Commission
and the national parliaments contains ten objectives that serve
as reference points.
(1) Visits to the national parliaments
President Barroso visited the French, Austrian, Belgian,
Finnish, German, Slovenian, Slovak and Danish Parliaments.
Vice-President Wallström has promised to visit
all the national parliaments during this legislature. In 2006
she visited the French, Slovenian, Finnish, and Luxembourg Parliaments.
Moreover, the Vice-President attended the meeting of Speakers
of the COSAC delegations in Helsinki (11 September 2006)
and the Conference of Speakers of the EU Parliaments in Copenhagen
(30 June 2006).
It should also be noted that Commissioners have visited
or been in contact with national parliaments on more than 100
occasions this year (see annex).
(2) Drafting of an annual report
This annual report attains the objective concerned.
(3) Availability of Commissioners and officials
to respond to requests from national parliamentary committees
The more than 100 contacts with or visits to national
parliaments under Plan D are evidence of the Commissioners' positive
response to requests from national parliaments, in particular
from their committees.
At the request of the national parliaments, Commission
officials took part in various types of meetings: national parliamentary
committees (14), visits with permanent representatives of the
national parliaments (12) and COSAC meetings (4).
(4) Increased attention to the concerns of national
The new mechanism for transmitting documents and
handling feedback from the national parliaments has created a
need for new and specific communication tools. This new mechanism
has also made it even clearer just how important the Commission's
political and legislative programming documents are: the Annual
Policy Strategy and the Legislative and Work Programme.
In direct response to the concerns of the national
parliaments, which wished to have these documents in all languages,
the Commission has for the first time translated the legislative
programme, annexes included, into all Community languages.
(5) Drafting of a newsletter
Four Newsletters (2 February, 29 May, 10 July
and 15 December) were drawn up and disseminated internally,
at the European Parliament and at the national parliaments.
(6) Liaison officers
On 19 June 2006 a member of President Barroso's Cabinet
attended the annual meeting of liaison offers and discussed the
implementation of the Decision of 10 May 2006.
Ms Wallström was in Copenhagen on 30 June
2006 to represent the Commission at the launch of IPEX, the Interparliamentary
EU-information exchange. On 2 February 2006 Ms Wallström
met Mr Forsberg (Secretary-General of the Swedish parliament,
the Riksdag) and Mr Tvarno (Secretary-General of the Danish
parliament, the Folketing), respectively the outgoing and incoming
Chairmen of the IPEX Steering Group.
On 13 January 2006 Commission representatives attended
a meeting of the IPEX Technical Working Group at the European
(8) Conference of the Speakers of the EU parliaments
Ms Wallström took part in the Conference
of Speakers of EU parliaments on 30 June 2006 in Copenhagen.
As regards the application of the guidelines on interparliamentary
cooperation as defined in The Hague in July 2004, please refer
in particular to the points concerning COSAC and IPEX.
(9) Permanent representatives
Commission staff attended 12 meetings of the permanent
representatives of the national parliaments in Brussels.
(10) Contact person
As mentioned above, Mr Godts was appointed liaison
officer for the national parliaments.
3.3 Subsidiarity studies coordinated by COSAC
The COSAC meeting in London in October 2005 decided
to encourage the national parliaments to examine Commission proposals
from the point of view of subsidiarity and proportionality, in
keeping with the provisions of the Treaties. Guidelines for participating
in this exercise were established for those parliaments wishing
to do so.
At the meeting in Vienna on 20 February 2006, the
Chairpersons of the delegations to COSAC agreed to focus on the
two legislative proposals that had attracted the most attention:
the proposal for a Regulation on applicable law and jurisdiction
in divorce matters and the proposal on completion of the internal
market for postal services. The Commission has since received
opinions on these issues from a significant number of national
parliaments (see above).
3.4. Attendance at interparliamentary meetings
The Commission accepted numerous requests to attend
meetings with the national parliaments organised by the European
Parliament or jointly organised by the EP and the national parliament
of the country holding the Presidency, at both parliamentary committee
and ad hoc levels.
Notably, President Barroso took part in the strategy
meeting in Lisbon on 31 January and 1 February 2006,
the interparliamentary forum on the future of the European Union
on 8 and 9 May 2006 and the follow-up action taken by the
forum on 4 and 5 December 2006.
3.5. Objectives for 2007
In 2007 the general and specific objectives defined
in February 2005 and March 2006 will be pursued, including measures
to deepen the relations between the Commission and national parliaments,
with full respect for the prerogatives of the individual institutions
of the European Union.
In particular, the Commission looks forward to the
national parliaments' contributions via the new mechanism when
initiatives are at the pre-legislative stage. The Commission will
investigate the possibility of disseminating its replies to the
national parliaments to audiences outside the European Parliament
and the Council, as is currently the case. This might include
reporting on the scope and impact of the national parliaments'
opinions on the policy-formation process. The Commission will
continue its efforts and improve its internal coordination regarding
visits to the national parliaments (and the reception of their
representatives), interparliamentary meetings and the demonstration
of progress in this area.
The Commission will explore the possibilities for
its Representations to participate more actively as a local interlocutor
for the national parliaments.
66 Conference of European Community Affairs Committees
in the parliaments of the Member States. Back
By letter dated 24 May 2005, all national parliaments were
informed that Mr Godts (Secretariat-General of the Commission)
had been appointed liaison officer responsible for relations with
the national parliaments. Back