The European Commission has denied claims that its plans to introduce expert panels to scrutinise changes to its legislation by the EU Parliament and Council of Ministers are an attempted power grab.
The Commission proposes bills, which are usually amended by the other two major EU institutions. Parliament and Council must then agree on an identical text before it becomes law.
As EURACTIV exclusively reported last month, the executive wants to introduce ad hoc panels of three experts, one appointed by each institution, to examine “substantial” amendments of its bills.
Campaigners such as Friends of the Earth Europe said, “This proposal is a huge power grab, where the Commission takes away power from Parliament and Council.”
The executive has a policy on not commenting on leaked documents. But documents published by the Commission today (19 May) specifically denied the power grab. They said the institutions would retain “full autonomy in deciding how to organise their work”.
“The Commission is not seeking to reduce the political scope of the Parliament or Council. It is merely asking them to consider the impact of any major amendments they propose,” the document reads.
The ad hoc panels are part of the Commission’s planned reforms of EU policymaking to boost competitiveness by removing unnecessary burdens on business, and improve the quality and the image of EU lawmaking at a time of rising Euroscepticism in Europe.
“All of the measures set out today are in full respect for the imperatives of the co-legislators in the European Parliament and Council,” the paper said. “These powers are clearly defined in the Treaties and the Commission is not seeking to change them.”
European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans today (19 May) announced the “Better Regulation” strategy in a press conference that brought few surprises after a series of leaks.
In return for the Parliament and Council’s support for ‘Better Regulation’, the Commission is prepared in a new inter-institutional agreement, to give the co-legislators more influence over the drafting of new laws.
The College of Commissioners has now adopted the final strategy. According to the executive it will:
- Increase transparency in the EU’s decision-making process.
- Improve the quality of laws through more impact assessments and consultations.
- Promote reviews and revamps of existing laws.
- Turn the Commission’s Impact Assessment Board into an independent Regulatory Scrutiny Board, with half of members recruited from outside the executive. This is separate to the expert panels.
Negotiations on the inter-institutional deal will begin with the Council and Parliament, with the aim of reaching a deal by the end of the year. Recruitment for the external members of the Regulatory Scrutiny Board and the REFIT Platform will be launched by the end of June.
The REFIT Platform of experts from business, civil society, member state representatives and other stakeholders, will collect suggestions for reducing regulatory burden and present them to the Commission.
Timmermans told reporters at the European Parliament in Strasbourg that Better Regulation was one of the Commission’s top priorities.
“We are listening to the concerns of citizens and businesses – especially SMEs – who worry that Brussels and its institutions don’t always deliver rules they can understand or apply,” he said.
“We want to restore their confidence in the EU’s ability to deliver high quality legislation,” he added, “We can do much better at EU lawmaking than we are today.”
But critics have accused the Commission of using “Better Regulation” as an excuse to pursue a big business deregulation agenda.
Such claims peaked after Timmermans announced the withdrawal and planned resubmission of the Circular Economy package of waste, incineration and recycling laws last December.
That was shortly after EURACTIV exclusively revealed that lobby organisation BusinessEurope had written to the Commission demanding the package be axed.
But Timmermans today promised “Better Regulation” would not drive down environmental or social standards.
“Better regulation is not about more or less rules EU rules, or undermining our high social and environmental standards, our health, or our fundamental rights,” he said.
It was instead about delivering on ambitious policy goals in the most efficient way.
Despite Timmermans’ repeated promises, more than 50 civil society organisations have joined forces to create a watchdog to protect the rights of citizens, workers and consumers.
The network was launched on Monday (18 May) and is concerned that the Better Regulation agenda will “weaken or undermine essential regulations and subordinate the public good to corporate interests”.
Over 70% of Europeans perceive our laws as too complicated and burdensome. We can do better and still meet our goals. pic.twitter.com/0cKrxwPBgR
— Frans Timmermans (@TimmermansEU) May 19, 2015