How does the legislative process work?
A Member of the European Parliament, working in one of the parliamentary committees, draws up a report on a proposal for a ‘legislative text’ presented by the European Commission, the only institution empowered to initiate legislation. The parliamentary committee votes on this report and, possibly, amends it. When the text has been revised and adopted in plenary, Parliament has adopted its position. This process is repeated one or more times, depending on the type of procedure and whether or not agreement is reached with the Council.
In the adoption of legislative acts, a distinction is made between the ordinary legislative procedure (codecision), which puts Parliament on an equal footing with the Council, and the special legislative procedures, which apply only in specific cases where Parliament has only a consultative role.
On certain questions (e.g. taxation) the European Parliament gives only an advisory opinion (the ‘consultation procedure’). In some cases the Treaty provides that consultation is obligatory, being required by the legal base, and the proposal cannot acquire the force of law unless Parliament has delivered an opinion. In this case the Council is not empowered to take a decision alone.
The ordinary legislative procedure gives the same weight to the European Parliament and the Council of the European
Union on a wide range of areas (for example, economic governance, immigration, energy, transport, the environment and consumer protection). The vast majority of European laws are adopted jointly by the European Parliament and the Council.
The codecision procedure was introduced by the Maastricht Treaty on European Union (1992), and extended and made more effective by the Amsterdam Treaty (1999). With the Lisbon Treaty that took effect on 1 December 2009, the renamed ordinary legislative procedure became the main legislative procedure of the EU´s decision-making system.
The European Parliament may approve or reject a legislative proposal, or propose amendments to it. The Council is not legally obliged to take account of Parliament’s opinion but in line with the case-law of the Court of Justice, it must not take a decision without having received it.
In the beginning, the 1957 Treaty of Rome gave Parliament an advisory role in the legislative process; the Commission proposed and the Council adopted legislation.
The Single European Act (1986) and the Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon Treaties successively extended Parliament’s prerogatives. It can now co-legislate on equal footing with the Council in a vast majority of areas (see Ordinary legislative procedure) and consultation became a special legislative procedure (or even a non-legislative procedure) used in a limited number of cases.
This procedure is now applicable in a limited number of legislative areas, such as internal market exemptions and competition law.
Formerly know as the assent procedure, it was introduced by the 1986 Single European Act in two areas: association agreements and agreements governing accession to the European Union. The scope for the application of the procedure was extended by all subsequent modifications of the Treaties.
As a non-legislative procedure, it usually applies to the ratification of certain agreements negotiated by the European Union, or is applicable most notably in the cases of serious breach of fundamental rights under Article 7 Treaty on European Union (TEU) or for the accession of new EU members or arrangements for the withdrawal from the EU. As a legislative procedure, it is to be used also when new legislation on combating discrimination is being adopted and it now gives the European Parliament a veto also when the subsidiary general legal basis is applied in line with Article 352 TFEU.
Other legislative procedures
Alongside the main legislative procedures, there are other procedures carried out in Parliament in specific areas.
Opinion under Article 140 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (monetary union)
The Commission and the European Central Bank draw up reports for the Council on the progress in fulfilling their obligations as regards economic and monetary union of Member States with a derogation.After Parliament has delivered its opinion, the Council on the Commission’s proposal, decides which Member States with a derogation fulfil the conditions for adoption of the single currency on the basis of the criteria laid down in Article 140(1) TFEU and ends these Member States’ derogations. In this procedure, Parliament votes for the amendments en bloc and cannot table amendments.
Procedures relating to dialogue between management and labour
The Union’s objectives include promotion of dialogue between the two sides of industry, with a view to the conclusion of agreements and conventions.Under Article 154 TFEU, the Commission has the task of promoting the consultation of management and labour at Union level and thus submits to Parliament possible guidelines for Union action after consulting the two sides of industry.
Any Commission document or any agreement between management and labour is referred to the Parliament committee responsible. Where management and labour have reached an agreement and have requested jointly that the agreement be implemented by a Council decision on a proposal from the Commission under Article 155(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the committee responsible shall table a motion for a resolution recommending the adoption or rejection of the request.
Procedures for the consideration of voluntary agreements
The Commission informs Parliament when it intends to make use of voluntary agreements rather than legislation. The committee concerned may draw up an own-initiative report under Rule 48. The Commission informs Parliament when it intends to conclude a voluntary agreement. The committee responsible may table a motion for a resolution recommending adoption or rejection of the proposal and under what conditions.
Official codification means the procedure to repeal the acts being codified and replacing them by a single act. The consolidated version includes all modifications since the act first came into force. It does not contain any modification to the substance of the act. Codification helps to clarify EU legislation that has undergone frequent modifications. Parliament’s committee responsible for legal affairs examines the Commission’s proposal for codification. If there is no modification of substance, the simplified procedure for adoption of a report under Rule 46 applies. Parliament shall take a decision by means of a single vote, without amendment or debate.
Implementing and delegated provisions
The Commission may introduce implementing provisions for existing legislation. These provisions are presented to committees of experts from the Member States and forwarded to Parliament either for information or scrutiny. On a proposal from its committee responsible, Parliament may adopt a resolution opposing the measure, stating that the draft implementing measure exceeds the powers laid down in the legal act concerned, is not compatible with the aim or the content of the basic instrument or does not respect the principles of subsidiarity or proportionality, and asking the Commission to withdraw or amend the draft of measures or submit a proposal under the appropriate legislative procedure. Where a legislative act delegates to the Commission the power to supplement or amend certain non-essential elements of a legislative act, the committee responsible shall examine any draft delegated act where it is transmitted to Parliament for scrutiny and may submit to Parliament a motion for a resolution any appropriate proposal in accordance with the provisions of the legislative act.
The Commission has the legislative initiative. However, under the Treaty of Maastricht enhanced by the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament has a right of legislative initiative that allows it to ask the Commission to submit a proposal.
Annual and multiannual programming
According to the Treaty, the Commission shall initiate the Union´s annual and multiannual programming. In view of achieving that goal, the Commission prepares its work programme, which is its contribution to the Union’s annual and multiannual programming. The European Parliament already cooperates with the Commission in the process of drafting the Commission´s work programme and the Commission shall take into account the priorities expressed by Parliament at that stage. Following its adoption by the Commission, a trilogue between Parliament, the Council and the Commission is foreseen with a view to reaching an agreement on the Union’s programming.
Detailed arrangements, including a timetable, are set out in Annex XIV of the Rules of Procedure (Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the European Commission). Parliament adopts a resolution on the annual programming. The President asks the Council to deliver an opinion on the Commission’s work programme and Parliament’s resolution. Where an institution is unable to comply with the timetable laid down it is required to notify the other institutions as to the reasons for the delay and to propose a new timetable.
Initiative under Article 225 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union
On the basis of a report by one of its committees, under Article 225 TFEU, Parliament, acting by a majority of its Members, may request the Commission to submit any appropriate legislative proposal. Parliament may, at the same time, set a deadline for the submission of such a proposal. The Parliament committee responsible must first ask the Conference of Presidents for authorisation. The Commission may agree or refuse to submit the proposal requested.
A proposal for a Union act on the basis of the right of initiative granted to Parliament under Article 225 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union may also be proposed by an individual Member of the European Parliament. Such a proposal shall be submitted to the President of the Parliament who refers it to the committee responsible for consideration. It may decide to submit it to the plenary (see above).
In the areas where the treaties give the European Parliament the right of initiative, its committees may draw up a report on a subject within its remit and present a motion for a resolution to Parliament. They must request authorisation from the Conference of Presidents before drawing up a report.