This is Valerie again, the European bee at Beekeeper Group. In my first blog on the European Union, I provided some insights into its organizational structure.
In case you missed the piece, you can read it here.
Today, I provide an overview of the decision-making process in the EU.
Legislation within the European Union
The legislative component of the European Union has a unique structure from the American government and Congress. The law-making process of the EU is like a one-two punch. Laws are divided into two categories – primary and secondary.
Primary legislation are treaties formed within the EU, and they are the basis (or ground rules) for all EU action. Secondary legislation includes the regulations, directives, and decisions that have been derived from the principles and objectives set forth in the treaties, or primary legislation.
Operating via ‘Codecision’
The EU’s standard decision-making procedure is known as ‘codecision.’ This means that the directly elected European Parliament has to approve EU legislation together with the Council (the governments of the 27 EU countries). The Commission then drafts and implements EU legislation.
The Treaty of Lisbon has increased the number of policy areas where ‘codecision’ is used, helping to usher the EU into a 21st century way of operating. Now, the European Parliament also has more power to block a proposal if it disagrees with the Council.
The Commission – Drafting EU Law
Before the Commission proposes new initiatives, it assesses the potential economic, social, and environmental consequences that they may have. It does this by preparing ‘Impact assessments’ which set out the advantages and disadvantages of possible policy options.
The Commission also consults interested parties such as non-governmental organizations, local authorities, and representatives of industry and civil society. Groups of experts give advice on technical issues. In this way, the Commission ensures that legislative proposals correspond to the needs of those most concerned and avoids unnecessary red tape, even allowing citizens, businesses, and organizations to participate in the process via online forum.
National parliaments can formally express their reservations if they feel that it would be better to deal with an issue at national rather than EU level.
Review and adoption
The European Parliament and the Council review proposals by the Commission and propose amendments. If the Council and the Parliament cannot agree upon amendments, a second reading takes place. In the second reading, the Parliament and Council can again propose amendments. The Parliament has the power to block the proposed legislation if it cannot agree with the Council.
If the two institutions agree on amendments, then the proposed legislation can be adopted. If they cannot agree, then a conciliation committee tries to find a solution. Both the Council and the Parliament can block the legislative proposal at this final reading.
The following graphic illustrates the EU legislation procedure:
Like in the United States, various interests groups are eager to have a say in the EU decision making processes. Stay tuned to learn about lobbying in Brussels in my next blog!