White Paper on Governance: European Parliament reaffirms its role

The European Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee reaffirmed its democratic role during its debate on the Commission’s White Paper on European Governance. Although MEPs see a role for organised civil society in the Union’s consultation process, they underline that the decision-making system of the EU needs to be ‘parliamentarised’.

One of the issues promoted by the Commission in its White Paper is better participation in the decision-making process by civil society. Although agreeing that ‘organised civil society’ should be consulted, the Parliament’s constitutional committee argued that the same civil society “cannot be regarded as having its own democratic legitimacy given that its representatives are not elected by the people”. The committee defends the role of the Economic and Social Committee (ECOSOC) and the Committee of the Regions (COR) as elected bodies of civil society.

Other issues raised by the constitutional committee’s report (rapporteur:

Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann, GUE/NGL, Germany):

  • there should be more involvement of parliaments (European and national) in the decision-making process;
  • greater transparency is needed in the Council when it is adopting legislation;
  • the involvement of NGOs in the decision-making process by the creation of ‘consultation standards and practices’, should not lead to any quid pro quo on the part of these civil society organisations (i.e. any limits on their action);
  • autonomous agencies can be created but “only if specific scientific expertise is required”.
  • “framework directives can be used but should be subject to strict democratic control”;
  • no direct delegation of powers and tasks to bodies or authorities at regional or local level in the Member States;
  • the Commission is urged not to present the action plan for better lawmaking to the Laeken Council before the Council and Parliament, as co-legislators, have delivered an opinion;
  • methods of co-regulation and ‘open coordination’ require further examination by Parliament and should be regulated by an interinstitutional agreement
  • co-regulation should not lead to a “situation in which targets for industry for the purposes of environmental protection are fixed in a way that circumvents Parliament and merely approved by the Council under agreements between the Commission and trade associations which are neither ‘representative’ nor ‘accountable’”;
  • the political dimension of enlargement is scarcely mentioned in the White Paper;


The promotion of new forms of governance is one of the Prodi Commission's four strategic priorities. The Commission published its White Paper on European Governance on 25 July 2001. Commission President Prodi sees the White Paper's main aim as being to decentralise the EU whilst improving the coherence of its policies in a bid to reconnect the Union with its citizens.


  • The report wil be debated at the Brussels plenary session of 28-29 November.
  • The consultation period on the White Paper will last until the end of March 2002.
  • The Commission needs to win over the Council and Member State governments as well as the European Parliament in order to implement its governance proposals.


Subscribe to our newsletters