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Procedure : 2015/2283(INI)
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Document selected : A8-0114/2017

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PV 16/05/2017 - 15
CRE 16/05/2017 - 15

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PV 17/05/2017 - 10.2
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Wednesday, 17 May 2017 - Strasbourg Final edition
Annual report 2014 on subsidiarity and proportionality

European Parliament resolution of 17 May 2017 on the Annual Report 2014 on subsidiarity and proportionality (2015/2283(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Interinstitutional Agreement of 16 December 2003 on better law-making, and to the most recent version, the Interinstitutional Agreement of 13 April 2016 on better law-making,

–  having regard to Protocol No 1 on the role of National Parliaments in the European Union,

–  having regard to Protocol No 2 on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality,

–  having regard to the practical arrangements agreed on 22 July 2011 between the competent services of the European Parliament and the Council for the implementation of Article 294(4) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) in the event of agreements at first reading,

–  having regard to its resolution of 12 April 2016 on the Annual reports 2012-2013 on subsidiarity and proportionality(1),

–  having regard to its resolution of 4 February 2014 on EU Regulatory Fitness and Subsidiarity and Proportionality – 19th report on Better Lawmaking covering the year 2011(2),

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 September 2012 on the 18th report on Better legislation – Application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality (2010)(3),

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 September 2011 on better legislation, subsidiarity and proportionality and smart regulation(4),

–  having regard to the Cooperation Agreement signed on 5 February 2014 between the European Parliament and the Committee on the Regions,

–  having regard to the Commission’s annual report 2014 on subsidiarity and proportionality (COM(2015)0315),

–  having regard to the Committee of the Regions’ Subsidiarity Annual Report 2014,

–  having regard to the bi-annual reports of COSAC on Developments in European Union Procedures and Practices Relevant to Parliamentary Scrutiny, of 19 June 2014, 14 November 2014, 6 May 2015, and 4 November 2015,

–  having regard to Rules 52 and 132 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and to the opinion of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (A8-0114/2017),

A.  whereas in 2014 the Commission received 21 reasoned opinions addressing 15 Commission proposals; whereas the total number of submissions received was 506 including the submissions in the framework of the political dialogue;

B.  whereas in 2014 three national chambers (the Danish Folketing, the Dutch Tweede Kamer and the UK House of Lords) issued reports with detailed proposals on how to strengthen the role of national parliaments in the decision-making process;

C.  whereas in the Cooperation Agreement between the European Parliament and the Committee of the Regions signed on 5 February 2014 both institutions have committed themselves to enhancing the legitimacy of the European Union;

D.  whereas on 19 May 2015 the Commission adopted a package of better regulation measures with new integrated Better Regulation Guidelines, including updated guidance for assessing subsidiarity and proportionality in the context of impact assessment of new initiatives;

E.  whereas in 2014 the European Parliament Impact Assessment Unit produced 31 initial appraisals, two detailed appraisals, and three substitute or complementary impact assessments of Commission impact assessments, and one impact assessment on amendments;

F.  whereas delegated powers in the Union’s legislative acts are conferred where flexibility and efficiency are needed and cannot be delivered by means of the ordinary legislative procedure; whereas the adoption of rules essential to the subject envisaged is reserved to the legislators;

G.  whereas subsidiarity and proportionality are key considerations in the context of retrospective evaluations, which assess whether EU actions are actually delivering the expected results in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, coherence, relevance and EU added value;

1.  Welcomes the continued consideration of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, which, in accordance with the Treaties, are among the guiding principles of the European Union when it chooses to act and should be considered integral parts of the EU’s policy-making process; recalls that, with regard to any new legislative initiative, the Treaty obliges the Commission to examine whether the EU is entitled to take action and whether this action is justified on subsidiarity and proportionality grounds and that every initiative is accompanied by an explanatory statement setting out, inter alia, how it complies with those principles;

2.  Highlights that subsidiarity checks by Member States’ national parliaments are among the important tools for reducing the so-called ‘democratic deficit’ and for collaboration between European and national institutions; points out that national parliaments have a significant role to play in ensuring that decisions are taken at the level that is most effective and as closely as possible to the citizen; stresses that the adoption of legal acts requires the agreement of a large majority within the Council, comprising the national ministers of all the Member States, who are politically accountable to their national parliaments, and that this is another way in which the principle of subsidiarity is fully respected;

3.  Notes the significant decrease in the number of reasoned opinions received from national parliaments in 2014; points out, however, that such a decrease might be as a result of the declining number of legislative proposals by the Commission; draws attention to the fact that in 2014 no Commission proposal was subject to a ‘yellow card’ or ‘orange card’ procedure under Protocol No 2 on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality; recalls that the ‘yellow card’ procedure has been triggered twice in the past (once in 2012 and once in 2013), which demonstrates that the system functions;

4.  Notes that only 15 chambers issued reasoned opinions in 2014 and that this represents a decrease of approximately 50 % in the level of participation among all 41 chambers compared with 2013;

5.  Welcomes the fact that in 2014 all the EU institutions played an active role in ensuring control of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality in accordance with Article 5 of the Treaty on European Union; welcomes the fact that the political dialogue between the Commission and the national parliaments was enhanced, including through the various visits by Commissioners to national parliaments;

6.  Notes, however, that a majority of the opinions submitted by national parliaments come from only a few national chambers; encourages the other chambers to become more involved in the European debate;

7.  Notes that some national parliaments have highlighted that, in certain of the Commission’s legislative proposals, the justification of subsidiarity and proportionality is incomplete or indeed non-existent; calls on the Commission to improve its explanatory statements by always providing a detailed, comprehensive and factually substantiated analysis of its proposals in terms of subsidiarity and proportionality, which would assist national parliaments in carrying out a more effective examination of those proposals;

8.  Notes that the Impact Assessment Board (IAB) considered that approximately 32 % of impact assessments (IAs) reviewed by it in 2014 included an unsatisfactory analysis of the principles of subsidiarity or proportionality or both; observes that this rate is similar to the rates of previous years, and considers, therefore, that improvements may be necessary;

9.  Notes, in connection with the above, the crucial importance of impact assessments as tools for aiding decision‑making in the legislative process, and stresses the need, in this context, for proper consideration to be given to issues relating to subsidiarity and proportionality; welcomes, in this regard, the package of better regulation measures adopted by the Commission on 19 May 2015 with the aim of ensuring that EU legislation better serves the interests of the citizens, which, inter alia, addresses the concerns raised by the IAB regarding subsidiarity and proportionality; welcomes the inclusion therein of a more thorough explanation by the Commission of how legislative proposals meet the legal obligations of subsidiarity and proportionality, including in its impact analyses; stresses, in any case, that the package of better regulation measures must be used to create robust European legislation on issues for which real progress and added value can be best achieved at the European level;

10.  Recalls the importance of the annual reports on subsidiarity and proportionality prepared by the Commission; calls on the Commission, in this regard, to submit more detailed annual reports on subsidiarity and proportionality, including more thorough analysis of the principle of proportionality;

11.  Welcomes the reports by a number of national parliaments, in particular the Danish Folketing, the Dutch Tweede Kamer and the UK House of Lords, which make a valuable contribution to the debate on the role of national parliaments in the EU decision-making process, and takes note of the proposals included in those reports; notes that they contain ideas on how to extend the scope of the subsidiarity control mechanism, suggesting that reasoned opinions should also concern proposals’ compliance with the principle of proportionality; believes, however, that the practicality of these proposals requires careful evaluation and a revision of the relevant Treaties and protocols, as they are not reflected in the existing Treaties; encourages other national parliaments to share their views on the role that national parliaments should play in the EU decision-making process; welcomes national parliaments’ participation in the European debate and encourages them to cooperate even more closely with each other and with the European Parliament;

12.  Suggests that in a possible review of the Treaties and the Protocols thereto consideration could be given to whether reasoned opinions should be limited to examining subsidiarity grounds or whether they should also include proportionality assessments, to the appropriate number of national parliament responses required to trigger a ‘yellow card’ or ‘orange card’ procedure, and to what the effect should be in cases where the threshold for these procedures is reached in accordance with Article 7(2) of Protocol No 2 on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality;

13.  Notes that several national parliaments have expressed, within the Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs (COSAC), their interest in proposing the introduction of a ‘green card’ mechanism as an instrument in the context of improving political dialogue; is of the opinion that the introduction of this ‘green card’ mechanism, which would afford national parliaments the opportunity to suggest to the Commission a legislative initiative for its examination, should be considered; suggests, in this connection, that consideration could be given to the number of national parliaments needed in order to trigger such a procedure, and to the extent of its impact; stresses that the possible introduction of such a mechanism should not undermine the EU institutions and the ordinary legislative procedure;

14.  Takes note of the request from some national parliaments to extend the eight‑week period in which they can issue a reasoned opinion under Article 6 of Protocol No 2; believes in this respect, that consideration could be given to the question of the appropriate period that national parliaments should have to issue reasoned opinions if they were to request this on grounds of time constraints on the basis of justified objective reasons, such as natural disasters and recess periods, to be agreed between national parliaments and the Commission; considers that this could be achieved through a political undertaking agreed by the institutions and the national parliaments in the first instance, without giving rise to a delay in the adoption of relevant legislation; stresses that such a period should be the result of striking a fair balance between the right of national parliaments to raise objections on subsidiarity grounds and the efficiency with which the Union should respond to the demands of its citizens; notes, in this regard, that national parliaments have the opportunity of intervening and of considering the question of compliance with the principle of subsidiarity before the presentation by the Commission of its legislative initiative when it presents Green and White Papers or its annual Work Programme; believes that, since the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, the involvement of national parliaments in EU affairs has developed significantly, including through their linking up with other national parliaments on a regular basis;

15.  Considers that if the Member States agree to extend the period allowed to national parliaments to issue a reasoned opinion under Article 6 of Protocol No 2, it should be included in a forthcoming Treaty revision; such an extension period could then also be determined in secondary legislation;

16.  Recalls that it is possible for the national parliaments to raise subsidiarity concerns at any time under the consultation procedure or in the framework of political dialogue through an opinion addressed to the Commission;

17.  Calls on the national parliaments and the European Parliament to engage more effectively with each other, including by developing informal contacts between MEPs and national parliamentarians regarding specific policy areas;

18.  Believes that it is important to support national and regional parliaments through tools permitting information exchange, such as the creation of an IT platform that can be accessed by EU citizens; stresses that, especially since the volume of reasoned opinions received from national parliaments in 2014 remained unchanged in proportion to the number of Commission proposals, a mechanism should be developed for improving the participation of national parliaments in the EU legislative process, although the competences of each institution and the principle of subsidiarity must be fully respected;

19.  Encourages the use of interparliamentary cooperation to reinforce the role of national parliaments in the EU legislative process; stresses the importance of making better use of the interparliamentary tools available to the national parliaments, such as COSAC, the interparliamentary meetings held by the European Parliament, and the Interparliamentary Conference for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the Common Security and Defence Policy;

20.  Believes that it is important to raise the awareness of national parliaments regarding their specific role in European decision-making and to promote further the use of the platform for EU Interparliamentary Exchange (IPEX), which facilitates information exchange; recalls that the public consultations regularly organised by the Commission could be a source of information, but remain largely unused by members of national parliaments;

21.  Recommends that further use be made of the network of representatives of national parliaments to raise awareness of the subsidiarity and proportionality principles and to improve the functioning of IPEX;

22.  Considers that reasoned opinions issued by national parliaments in accordance with Article 7(1) of Protocol No 2 are to be duly taken into account by all EU institutions during the decision-making process of the Union and, in this connection, encourages EU institutions to make appropriate arrangements;

23.  Recalls that the principle of proportionality enshrined in Article 5 TEU requires that ‘the content and form of Union action shall not exceed what is necessary to achieve the objectives of the Treaties’; emphasises that the Court of Justice has stated that the principle of proportionality ‘requires that measures implemented through provisions of European Union law be appropriate for attaining the legitimate objectives pursued by the legislation at issue and must not go beyond what is necessary to achieve them’;

24.  Calls on the Commission to systematically carry out enhanced proportionality assessments for each legislative proposal, which should include an appropriate analysis of the different legislative options at its disposal and a substantial explanation of the environmental, social and economic impacts expected from the alternative chosen, and of its potential effects on competitiveness and on SMEs; believes that these enhanced proportionality assessments should help the Commission to discard alternatives with a disproportionate impact or which are unnecessarily burdensome on individuals, undertakings, in particular SMEs, civil society, employees and other entities concerned, and should allow a better examination of the proposals on proportionality grounds; considers that the enlargement of the scope of reasoned opinions so as to include respect for the principle of proportionality could be considered;

25.  Calls on the Commission to assess, with the assistance of national parliaments, the possibility of laying down non-binding guidelines to facilitate national parliaments in their task of assessing compliance of legislative proposals with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality;

26.  Welcomes the declaration by the Presidents of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, the French National Assembly, the German Bundestag and the Luxembourg Chamber of Deputies, which underlined ‘that more, not less, Europe is needed to respond to the challenges we face, both internally and externally’;

27.  Reiterates that several initiatives could already be introduced to improve collaboration between the European institutions and national parliaments and make it more efficient, and in particular:

   proposes forwarding the reasoned opinions of national parliaments sent under Article 6 of Protocol No 2 annexed to the TEU and the TFEU to the co-legislators without delay;
   suggests that guidelines could be prepared by the Commission for reasoned opinions on subsidiarity issues with the involvement of national parliaments and without undermining their discretion;
   encourages national parliaments to share their remarks on the assessments drawn up by the Commission;

28.  Is of the opinion that the Commission, the Council and Parliament should pay due consideration to the assessments of compliance with the subsidiarity and proportionality principles made by the Committee of the Regions when the latter issues opinions on legislative proposals;

29.  Highlights that legislation should be comprehensible and clear, allow parties to easily understand their rights and obligations, include appropriate reporting, monitoring and evaluation requirements, avoid disproportionate costs, and be practical to implement;

30.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0103.
(2) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0061.
(3) OJ C 353 E, 3.12.2013, p. 117.
(4) OJ C 51 E, 22.2.2013, p. 87.

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