EU aligns energy-saving laws with Lisbon Treaty rules


EU member states and the European Parliament have agreed changes to two key energy efficiency directives in order to make them compatible with Lisbon Treaty requirements on delegated acts, which will now come under MEPs' scrutiny.

Member states in the Council of the EU endorsed the agreement last week (14 April), and it is now expected to receive the blessing of MEPs at their May plenary session.

The deal concerns directives on the energy performance of buildings and energy labelling. The substance of both directives was agreed in November last year, but the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1 December 2009 meant modifications were required, notably to the legal basis and provisions on delegating acts (formerly known as 'comitology').

Although the EU has taken a case-by-case approach to urgent legislation pending further decisions, the energy efficiency directives will set a precedent for future changes to EU law.

The EU institutions sought to find an across-the-board solution to the changes required by the Lisbon Treaty, a Council spokesperson said, pointing out that the decision would have repercussions for other legislation.

However, she said it did not necessarily mean that the approach adopted for these texts would be exactly the same for others.

Commission loses powers to Parliament, Council

A significant part of the agreement deals with the treatment of the 'delegating acts' created under the Lisbon Treaty. These do away with the comitology procedure, under which the European Commission had to consult with committees made up of member-state experts as part of the implementation process.

The Parliament criticised the comitology procedure as undemocratic, because it gave a very limited role to the elected body and allowed the Commission to push through important implementing measures without its endorsement. The Lisbon Treaty, however, puts the Parliament on the same footing as the Council, as the delegating acts come under parliamentary control.

With the new legislation, the member states wanted to ensure that the EU executive must still consult national experts in the process and establish a mechanism for any institution to revoke an implementation measure, the Council spokesperson said.

The Parliament, on the other hand, is satisfied it will have more powers under the new rules. It can revoke delegations or object to changes made by the Commission to an annex, for example, a spokesperson for the EU assembly explained.

The member states in the Council of the European Union worked closely with the European Parliament to secure an agreement on the procedural steps, and confirmation by the EU's elected body was said to be a "mere formality". 

The Parliament was scheduled to vote on the new wording this week in plenary, but voting was postponed until May as the volcanic ash kept European air space closed (EURACTIV 20/04/10).

The Parliament will also vote on a report establishing its position on delegating acts in May. In the meantime, MEPs and member states will negotiate the necessary provisions for urgent legislation on an individual basis.

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive and the Energy Labelling Directive were part of the so-called energy efficiency package, on which an agreement was reached as a priority under the Swedish EU Presidency in the second half of 2009 (EURACTIV 25/06/09).

The agreement on the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive requires all new buildings to be "nearly zero" energy by 2021 and new buildings owned or rented by public authorities by 2019 (EURACTIV 18/11/09).

The new Energy Labelling Directive extends the scope of existing EU laws from household appliances to cover all energy-related products as well as energy-consuming commercial and industrial products like cold storage rooms or vending machines (EURACTIV 19/11/09).

In addition, last year's compromise added three more classes to the existing A-G labelling format in order to distinguish between several different 'A' classes, in which a large number of products have ended up as technology has developed.

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