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Verbatim report of proceedings
Monday, 12 May 1997 - Strasbourg OJ edition

5. Application of the subsidiarity principle

  President . – The next item is the report (A4‐0155/97) by Mrs Palacio Vallelersundi, on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Citizens' Rights, on the Commission reports to the u Council:

‐ on the application of the subsidiarity principle 1994
(COM(94)0533 – C4‐0215/95),

‐ entitled ‚Better Law‐making’ – on the application of the subsidiarity and proportionality principles, on simplification and on consolidation – 1995
(CSE(95)0580 – C4‐0561/95),

‐ entitled ‚Better Law‐making’ – on the application of the subsidiarity and proportionality principles, on simplification and on consolidation – 1996
(CSE(96)0007 – C4‐0015/97) and

‐ on the interim report on the application of the subsidiarity and proportionality principles
(CSE(96)0002 – C4‐0355/96)

  Palacio Vallelersundi (PPE), rapporteur. – (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the documents to which this report refers come, formally, at least, within the framework of the order received by the European Commission from the European Councils held in Birmingham and Edinburgh in 1992 to establish every year a report aimed at the European Parliament and the Council on application of the subsidiarity principle.

On this score, we should first of all highlight the difference between the 1994 report and the later one. What stands out from the 1994 report is its classical methodological approach, which makes it possible to appreciate the foundation of Community measures vis‐à‐vis those for which, on the contrary, the Commission has no legitimacy to take, because the criteria of Article 3B are not met.

The 1994 report also underlines quite clearly the problems which the application of the subsidiarity principle came across in practice: in particular, the Commission explains how the attitude of the Member States vis‐à‐vis the analysis of subsidiarity often responds to questions which have little or nothing to do with Article 3B. It is also worth pointing out the accurate analysis of the difficulty inherent in the lack of a clear line distinguishing exclusively Community competencies from shared competencies.

As for the other reports, the 1995 and 1996 reports, references to subsidiarity, proportionality, simplification and consolidation, under the generic label of ‚Better law‐making’, reveal the different approach and perspective taken by the Commission.

I must openly confess that, despite a careful reading, I have been unable to draw a clear conclusion on the application of the subsidiarity principle over this period. On the contrary, the continuous reference to different initiatives (Molitor and Slim, to quote only two), the confusion of legal principles and technical principles and the welter of rhetorical declarations, paradoxically produce the situation where we are faced with an institution which has lost any real impetus, which is on the defensive and which is only using these reports on subsidiarity, not to explain how it exercises its responsibilities, but as an opportunity to attempt to justify what it does as a whole.

The reports being presented to the plenary session received the unanimous support of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Citizens' Rights, in that it has very much taken into account the focus of discussions in the Intergovernmental Conference and, in particular, the protocol currently being worked out by the Dutch Presidency, and it is focused on the following considerations: first of all, the subsidiarity principle, which has as its aim the notion that certain decisions should be adopted as closely as possible to the citizens themselves, and this undoubtedly has a clear political dimension. However, the inclusion of the principle in the Treaties gives it an important legal weight of constitutional import, and regulates the definition and execution of Community actions in accordance with competencies attributed by the Member States without affecting in absolute terms the division of powers within the Member States themselves.

The Community after all is based on the explicit share‐out of power. However, it is incumbent on the institutions of the European Union to take all of the necessary action to carry out the mission, achieve the objectives and execute the obligations which the Treaties impose upon them. This has been the Assembly's doctrine since the reports by Giscard d'Estaing and Martin, and the resolution abides by that.

Secondly, the subsidiarity principle is active on two fronts: when the Commission plans to take an initiative which goes beyond the exclusive competencies of the European Community, it must demonstrate the legitimacy of its action by explaining, in particular, that the matter has a Community dimension, that it must be taken, that it would add to the efficiency of Community action in general, compared with the action of Member States individually. This is undoubtedly the corollary of the subsidiarity principle, because we must also insist on the fact that applying the subsidiarity principle cannot stand in the way of the legitimate exercise by the Community of the shared powers which have been allocated to it by the Treaties. Perhaps we should even call into question areas of activity in which the Community has exclusive power. To put it another way: application in accordance with the Treaties of the principle of subsidiarity may in no way be translated into a weakening of Community law or an undermining of the acquis communautaire.

By the same token, the resolution which we are proposing expresses concern that, over the period under examination, 1994 to 1996, subsidiarity has often been referred to in order to block the development of initiatives taken in the framework of new policies, in particular in the sectors of culture, the audiovisual industry, energy or research, to mention only a few.

The third axis of the report is to ‚act less in order to act better’, to use the slogan of the Commission which we share and applaud. However, nonetheless, we are concerned at the profusion of preparatory documents in 1996, to mention that year alone: thirteen green papers, two white papers, plus countless reports, communications and action programmes. We can only fear that this investment in time and resources by the Commission might be to the detriment of legislative activity, in which it holds the monopoly of initiative.

This seems to consolidate the Commission trend to present, when more ambitious initiatives fail and/or as a consequence of the Council's policies, framework directives and codes of conduct. It is therefore the responsibility of the European Parliament to denounce the risk of creating in this way, in some cases, a more uncertain type of law, a less secure type, so‐called ‚soft law’ – which is less binding and which can be translated into a sham harmonisation and an uncertain transposition into national laws and regulations.

Finally we should also recognise the influence of the situation which – let us be quite clear – can bring about a use which is contrary to the Treaty of the subsidiarity principle, in the lack of progress over the period 1994 to 1996 in vital aspects of the internal market.

Finally, we should refer to the confusion of legal principles with criteria of good legislative practice. We denounce the fact that the Commission, as has been made quite clear, has felt it appropriate to extend its latest reports on subsidiarity, entitled ‚Better law‐making’, to measures already planned for in the areas of simplifying and consolidating Community law. The resolution which we are proposing highlights the confusion which arises from this decision and insists on the vital difference between simplification and consolidation – and clarity as a natural corollary of both of these principles, which are criteria of good legislative practice vis‐à‐vis the legal nature of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.

I conclude, Mr President, Commissioner: monitoring by the European Parliament of respect of subsidiarity in both of its aspects, ie not to do as well as to do , when it is necessary, and exercise by the European Parliament of the analysis of subsidiarity in various Community acts on which it has to give its opinion, should be maintained and even intensified. To paraphrase the introduction to the 1995 report, as rapporteur, I doubt whether in reality this report, ’Better law‐making’, demonstrates – and I quote – that ‚the Commission performs the task incumbent on it’. Where I have no doubt however, is that this is a shared responsibility – and I quote again – ’with the other institutions of the European Union and the Member States’.

Commissioner, Mr President, the European Parliament is aware of its responsibility and will exercise it on behalf of the people it represents.

  Añoveras Trias de Bes (PPE).(ES) Mr President, Commissioner, subsidiarity and proportionality are binding rules of a constitutional nature which regulate the exercise of competencies shared between the Community and the Member States. These rules may in no way represent an obstacle to the development of the internal market nor call into question in any case the acquis communautaire.

A distinction must be made between the legal principles of subsidiarity and proportionality on one hand and simplification and consolidation on the other. The former referred to the effectiveness of management and the latter to the techniques of transparency. Both these spheres are complementary but in no case may they be confused. That is why it is incorrect to extend these principles to the techniques of simplification. First of all we must assess the need to take action and, after that, actually take action. The Commission's proposed slogan ‚Act less to act better’ implies the need to take action and, consequently, the need to know how to act. Is the effectiveness of Community management compatible with working out and producing rules and documents preparing for legislation in the general or institutional framework? The rapporteur hit the nail on the head and quite rightly referred to this very serious problem.

These actions pose a double risk: first of all, they could lead to a situation where the general public is inundated with paper, documents, acts, only adding to the bewilderment which currently exists and, secondly, could actually be detrimental to legal security.

How do these acts become part of the European Union's regulatory system? Throughout the Intergovernmental Conference there has been an analysis of the way in which the institutions operate and the balance struck between the different powers of the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament. That is why we must prevent the European Parliament from giving into three temptations: using subsidiarity to renationalise the exclusive competencies of the Community; to use codes of conduct and agreements to neutralise proportionality; to approve Community consolidation in order to introduce substantial changes to the text and if possible modify the legal bases.

The European Parliament must exercise a supervisory role over these temptations. The work carried out by the rapporteur has been extraordinary in dealing with an especially difficult and complicated report. Her work is not only enhanced by the talents that she has demonstrated in parliamentary negotiations, but also because she has drafted a report which is a model of simplicity and clarity.

IN THE CHAIR: MRS MAGDALENE HOFF
Vice‐President

  Thors (ELDR).(SV) Madam President, if we look at the statistics in the report the situation looks good but as the rapporteur has stated this is not the whole truth. There have been fewer legislative initiatives but instead the Commission has introduced control through other initiatives. It is not certain that this procedure increases subsidiarity. The new procedure also shifts the balance of power between the institutions.

When we are considering subsidiarity I think that we should also look at individual regulations in every draft law; this, I think, is the spirit of the Treaty. Is this particular regulation really useful or necessary at EU level? Our present work does not include such investigationeither into draft laws or in the House. Here it is often individual interests which win the day, something about which our group is concerned.

Secondly, I share the rapporteur"s concern over the reports which we are discussing today. I do not think that history will show them to have contributed a great deal to promoting subsidiarity. It is my opinion that we must give more vigour into the debates on the principle of subsidiarity. We can do this by including regulations and sections on subsidiarity in the Commission"s legislative programme. We also need better investigations into specific draft laws on subsidiarity. Despite a directive from the Commission"s leaders, investigation into specific draft laws leave much to be desired.

But the real problem lies with those regulations, the individual implementation statutes, which are at a lower level than parliamentary and Council decisions and where there is a lot of scope for improvement. I recommend that the Commission adopts a time limit which means that any regulation which is not renewed within five years expires and no longer exists. This would reduce the level of bureaucracy and increase people"s faith in the Union.

  Lindholm (V).(SV) Madam President, all of us sitting here share a desire to work towards increased democracy, particularly at local level, as close to the people as possible. That is why we are here. The principle of subsidiarity ought to be the tool for carrying out this work as it was intended. Unfortunately, however, it is not working at present.

As the rapporteur has stated, subsidiarity is clearly one of the fundamental standards within the EU. What is less clear is how it is applied, how it ought to be applied and how it will be applied in the future. The way the Commission has started to introduce another legal principle, the principle of proportionality, and issues concerning the technical level of legislation etc. into their reporting on the application of the subsidiarity principle does not make the situation any clearer at all.

One thing which must be clarified is the basis and the criteria to use for determining when an issue is to be regulated at Community level and when it can and must be dealt with at National level in accordance with the principle of proximity and as close to those involved as possible. If the principle of subsidiarity is only applied to the so called ‚softer issues’, such as environmental issues and consumer protection, we could begin to suspect that this is not a case of respecting subsidiarity but misusing it instead. If we wish to permit better and tighter environmental regulations for example, it is possible to decide that tighter national safeguards will be allowed. It is also possible to use Article 100a, where values other than the purely financial are respected alongside the internal market.

The people"s attitude to and confidence in the EU and in democracy in general depends closely on well run local and national democracy and a principle of subsidiarity which works. So we hope that the Intergovernmental Conference will tackle the issue and finally give the principle of subsidiarity a proper footing and real substance.

  Novo Belenguer (ARE).(ES) Madam President, first of all I wish to express our support for the work carried out by Mrs Palacio because we can also conclude from it that the correct application of the subsidiarity principle should mean bringing European citizens closer to the decision‐making process in initiatives leading to the development and consolidation of the European Union.

Along these lines, Madam President, our attention is drawn in particular to the lack of references to the important role to be played by regional powers and, above all, those which have legislative powers. The encyclical Quadragesimo Anno refers to the injustice of taking away from minor communities what they can do for themselves. In that we are doing away with the sensation among our fellow citizens of the so‐often criticised centralisation of Community institutions and succeeding in establishing appropriate channels so that they can be given appropriate and necessary information – showing them that their problems directly affect the various Union institutions, we shall reach the situation in which we strike the necessary and fair balance in applying the principle of subsidiarity.

It is our responsibility as members of the European Parliament to make sure that the Commission, when it considers it appropriate to put the subsidiarity principle into practice, assesses its own effectiveness in Community terms and its positive effects on sectors which are important for ordinary citizens, such as employment.

These are areas in which regional authorities must assume dominant positions because they are much closer to the people being administered. It would also be a good solution, a good way of achieving these aims, to strengthen the legislative powers of the European Parliament since, as the most directly representative institution for the ordinary people, it would then be given a greater role in the application of the principle of subsidiarity, increasing its relations with the ordinary people as well as internal democracy in the Community institutions.

  Van der Waal (I‐EDN).(NL) Madam President, ’Europe must do less to do better’. This was a slogan adopted by the European Commission at the beginning of last year, with the aim of reducing the number of legislative proposals and improving their quality. Looking at the Commission documents on today"s agenda, the Commission has taken that to heart. We welcome it. The number of legislative proposals is significantly down on previous years. Clearly the subsidiarity principle does more to help that than is generally realized. This is borne out by the fact that the Commission withdrew 48 legislative proposals in the period 1994‐1995.

In the Palacio report we read that the subsidiarity principle is a legally binding rule and to some degree a warning is given that it must not undermine the powers which the Community has been given by the Treaties. And I believe there is no danger of that. Experience shows us that it is more the other way round, with the subsidiarity principle still not being fully enforced.

The reasons for this is that the principle is not a purely legal concept, but includes political and economic aspects too. When applying the principle it is difficult to distinguish between these aspects. As a result, use of the principle is determined partly by the vision people have of aspirations for European unity. Those in favour of a United Europe see the application of this principle as part of this political objective. But in so doing they forget that the Union is a cooperative association of sovereign states. That means that the authority of the Member States comes first and that of our supranational institutions comes second.

It must also be borne in mind that the subsidiarity principle, as interpreted at the Edinburgh summit, is emphatically designed to resist centralization and keep the decision‐making process as close as possible to the people. I thus cannot endorse those paragraphs in the Palacio report which say that the subsidiarity principle is wrongly invoked as a way of opposing European measures in the areas of culture, audiovisual services, health, employment and so on. These policy areas are, after all, mainly a matter for the Member States

In addition to cutting down on legislation, the Commission also stresses in its reports the need to simplify and improve legislation. We should give our approval to this too. With an eye to proportionality, the amount of legislation and its degree of detail should be kept as small as possible. But this effort must not be confused with the legal framework of the subsidiarity principle. Mrs Palacio rightly makes that point in her report. But these measures to simplify things are no less important if the European legislative process is to work well.

The widening gulf between European administration and the citizens of our Member States means there is every reason to limit the Union"s remit and resist centralization and bureaucracy. This need will be all the more pressing with further enlargement of the Union and increasing diversity among Member States. The Irish presidency"s proposal to add a protocol to the Treaty setting out the operation of the subsidiarity principle is a good idea. But I am sure that enlargement will force us to reduce still further the responsibilities which the Union discharges at present and to allow the Member States more freedom.

  Vanhecke (NI).(NL) Madam President, it is perhaps helpful to remember, first of all, that Article 3b on the subsidiarity principle did not appear in the Maastricht Treaty out of nowhere. It came in response to a legitimate concern on the part of a lot of people in the European Union. Those people are very worried about what they perceive as ever‐increasing meddling by Europe. Not to beat about the bush: no sensible person objects even to far‐reaching forms of co‐operation and debate at European level, but more and more sensible people are wondering about certain manifestations of over‐harmonization, excessive European interference in regional or national matters. I think the imposition of the so‐called ‚European electoral law’ for local elections is a typical example of this – though regrettably not the only one.

The Maastricht Treaty brought a sensitive extension to powers at Union level, among other things in the form of ‚new policy measures’. But the counterbalance to this expansion of powers, the express inclusion of the subsidiarity principle in the Treaties by Article 3b now seems set to become a dead letter.

Proper application of subsidiarity means that normally the so‐called ‚lower echelons’ consider which powers they wish to abrogate to the higher echelon. But this report shows once again that precisely the opposite approach is being followed in Europe: in the best case, the European authority is asked to think about which powers it perhaps does not want to have; and in the event of a conflict of powers another European institution – the Court of Justice – will decide. All that seems to me a politically perverse reversal of the subsidiarity principle.

In conclusion I would also say that this debate would really be unnecessary if everyone respected the fact that the European Union is not some kind of embryo federal state, but an ‚association of states’, as the ruling of the Karlsruhe Court, the famous ruling by the German Constitutional Court, made plain.

That is the nub of the matter. As long as a majority in Parliament – I say Parliament because I have the feeling there is some improvement in the Commission – clearly refuses to acknowledge this reality that we are an ‚association of states’, to my mind debates like this one have little point.

  Cardona (UPE).(PT) Madam President, I should like to begin by saying that in our view the principles of subsidiarity model and characterise the decision‐making process of the Community's institutions. Consequently these are constitutional principles, binding on the respective partners and of very great importance for the construction and integration of Community institutions. From our point of view, at this stage this institution – which we regard as constitutional – must, above all, provide a framework for the balance of powers, between the Community and the Member States whose powers should be maintained, at the present stage, in the intergovernmental sphere. We feel that the principle enshrined in Article 3B of the Treaty on European Union should not be altered in any way, worked upon or deepened in the negotiations being carried out at the IGC.

We feel that what is at stake is verifying in what terms and in what way the principle is used by Community institutions. The Commission, on this score, in its most recent report, adopted a fundamental rule according to which it would act less in order to act better. We fully go along with this fundamental rule. However, it should also be pointed out that, from our point of view, we really must decide what the vital content of the principle of subsidiarity is. There should be criteria such as the need and efficiency to determine cases and conditions in which the Commission must, when it shares powers, take action which are proven to be appropriate in order make progress towards aims which must have been common ones.

The definition of what should be seen as a common objective should in our view be worked out on the basis of the principle of proportionality which is also enshrined in the last part of the same constituent precept. Therefore we would say that subsidiarity and proportionality are concepts which are interlinked and complementary. All measures consequently should be made dependent on objectives of common interest to be pursued by Community institutions.

There are areas such as the environment and the fight against fraud which should however be subordinated to the subsidiarity principle. To give a few examples in the area of fighting tax fraud, agreements on mutual administrative assistance, agreements on transfer prices, directives on mergers and splits, directives on the payment of dividends, common rules, also, on simultaneous verification schemes or coming under the definition of what should be understood by common action subordinated to the principle of proportionality and worked out in agreement with the criteria which I referred to a little while ago, namely necessity and efficiency.

Another important point to be included in this matter is a discussion about the role of national parliaments in the process of working out decisions coming under the principle of subsidiarity. We feel that the national parliaments should play an important role in the stage leading up to a decision and also in later stages, through the respective political control and supervision of the way in which actions are carried out in compliance with the principle of subsidiarity.

Finally, in respect of the possible replacement of current legislative forms by what is designated by the Commission as something permanent, we feel that this process should be limited to the adoption of consultation procedures and discussions before any decision is taken. This should not be regarded as a regulatory decision. In our point of view it should continue to be regulated by regulatory forms and, by the same token, bound by the respective targets of those rules.

  Corbett (PSE). – Mr President, the principle of subsidiarity has become like apple pie. Everyone is in favour of it but everyone means something quite different by it. A concept that was developed in the European Union context by this Parliament when it prepared the Spinelli draft treaty on European Union is now actually used by opponents of European Union, who allege that the European Union is becoming over‐centralized, that there is a danger of a centralized superstate.

When you think about it, the Union spends only 3 % of public expenditure. Its bureaucracy is the same size as that of an average medium‐sized town in Europe. There is no real danger of over‐centralization in the long‐term future. For the Union to adopt legislation, we should not forget that it first needs a legal base in the Treaties – treaties which have been ratified by each and every national parliament. Then, to adopt any significant legislation, the approval of the Council is needed, amongst other things. And who sits in the Council? National ministers, who are part of national governments, accountable to national parliaments. Not people who are predisposed to handing over powers to the European Union where this is not necessary.

Next time a minister returns home and blames Brussels for interfering, remind him or her that it is national ministers sitting in the Council who have approved the legislation in question in the first place. Even then, should they overstep their powers, it is possible to go to the Court to seek to verify whether the principle of subsidiarity has been overstepped or not. That option is available to any government in the European Union.

We should reject the fear stirred up by the likes of Mr Vanhecke just now, by the likes of John Major, by the likes of John Redwood, by the likes of Michael Howard, by the likes of Mr Le Pen, by the likes of William Hague, who would like us to believe that there is a threat to all our countries from over‐centralization in Europe.

This is not the case. There is no real danger of that. We should have the courage to say that sometimes European legislation is necessary to provide fair rules of the game for the single market, to make sure that there is less regulation by having a single set of regulations for companies instead of fifteen sets of divergent national regulations for them to adapt to. Yes to subsidiarity. No to using it as an instrument with which to attack the European Union.

  Habsburg‐Lothringen (PPE).(DE) Madam President, I must begin by complimenting Mrs Palacio very warmly on her report and of course the Commission too, in the person of Commissioner Oreja, on the progress achieved. But I think it appropriate in this debate on the subsidiarity principle to emphasize that this very principle stems from Christian social thinking and should thus be applied with this in mind and not, as is so often the case, as a means of helping people to help themselves.

Subsidiarity means nothing more than not allowing a larger unit to do things which the next unit down the scale can do perfectly adequate. But this shows quite clearly too that subsidiarity must be built from the bottom up and not from the top down. Subsidiarity must operate equally between municipalities and regions, just as it must operate between the institutions of the European Union and the Member States.

Mrs Palacio"s report makes the point very clearly at the beginning that the subsidiarity principle has a political dimension: consequently questions concerning the subsidiarity principle should also be resolved by political means and, where possible, not by the Court of Justice, precisely because the objective should be for Community decisions to be taken as closely as possible to the people. But as close as possible to the people means that decisions in this decision‐making pyramid should be pushed down as far as possible towards the pyramid base. For me the logical conclusion of this is that we must, beneath the municipal level, also consider the family level, since this is the bedrock of our society and needs to be strengthened accordingly, also on the basis of the subsidiarity principle.

But it is vital too that the subsidiarity principle should on no account be abused to weaken the force of Community law. Systematic mention of it in the context of the new polices sounds somewhat suspect here. But overall, this extremely enlightening report shows us that there is still much to be done especially in the matter of defining subsidiarity.

  Dybkjær (ELDR).(DA) I should like to thank the rapporteur for trying to create a little more clarity as regards the principle of subsidiarity, which was focused on seriously in Edinburgh in 1992 following the referendums held on Maastricht, in which it dawned on Europe's governments that the EU was not exactly a popular project. In my opinion, this is one of the things that the subsidiarity principle should be used for – to ensure that our citizens have as much influence as possible on the decisions taken, that they have as much opportunity as possible to decide for themselves, and that in any case they are enabled to understand what is going on. But the subsidiarity principle is still not clearly defined, and is therefore not understood in practice.

I would therefore call for the discussions to be continued here in Parliament, in the Commission, and elsewhere. And as well as urging the Intergovernmental Conference to address the definition of this concept seriously too, we should perhaps ask DG IV to draw up a more fundamental report on what the concept has actually become in practical terms during the period in question, and how it can be specifically defined with a view to applying it in future.

  White (PSE). – Mr President, I congratulate the rapporteur on an excellent and succinct report.

However, Article 3b of the Treaty does not actually define subsidiarity. I am glad about that, because, as Mr Corbett has rightly said, in the past the concept of subsidiarity has been used as an excuse to repatriate, and I thoroughly oppose that idea. Let me give a specific example: in the last parliamentary term the Commission, in its wisdom, thought it necessary to protect animals in zoos by coming forward with a proposal for a directive on the position of animals in zoos. As a result of the notorious Edinburgh Summit, where a number of worthy proposals were put on a bonfire by Mr Major, that particular proposal was withdrawn and has now come back to this Parliament as a mere directive. In my view, that is a retreat: it will not serve the interests of animals in zoos and amounts to a weak excuse for what we should be doing as parliamentarians.

Therefore, when recital F in this report refers to subsidiarity as a ‚dynamic concept’, I think we should add the word ‚pragmatic’, because, as recital G says it is ‚an appropriate legal technique’. I do not think this presents major difficulties at all. All we need to do is to ask: what is the objective of any given piece of legislation? And then we need to ask simply at what level will this legislation be most effective? That is a pragmatic test, and sometimes it will be more effective at Community level and sometimes it will be more effective at national or regional level. That is simply a question of the application of a pragmatic principle, and we should not be lulled into the belief that somehow subsidiarity is to be equated with only doing things at national level.

  Oreja Aguirre , Member of the Commission. – (ES) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to thank Mrs Palacio for her dedication, with the skills for which she is known, to the Commission's work on the application of the subsidiarity principle. I should like to tell her how much I have valued the observations which are both precise and to the point made in her report and by what she had to say this afternoon.

I am also pleased to note that the position taken by the rapporteur in many ways is very close to that of the Commission. For example the Commission, just like the rapporteur, feels that the subsidiarity principle does not intervene in matters of exclusive competences since, in such cases, it is impossible to call into question the acquis communautaire and, at the same time that differences over subsidiarity should be resolved preferably in the framework of the normal functioning of the institutions, in accordance with the Interinstitutional Agreement of 1993, without excluding, of course, possible proceedings before the Court of Justice.

Just like the European Parliament I should like to say that the Commission, as you well know, has not asked for a revision of Article 3B in the framework of the Intergovernmental Conference. We are satisfied by Article 3B and we think that it is important for all of the institutions to apply it in practice.

I should like to take this opportunity – if you will so allow – to specify the Commission's position in respect of some of the points which have been mentioned. In respect of our reports entitled ‚Better Law‐making’ I should like above all to calm your fears. The Commission in no way confuses the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality with technical instruments making Community legislation simpler, clearer and more accessible or, in practical terms, simplification and consolidation. The Commission makes the distinction between these different concepts and in no way confuses or mixes them up.

The Commission's approach is a purely practical one. Community legislation is a whole set of rules and we need to have an overall view of the whole legislation – something which should be made easier by what we have chosen to call ‚Better Law‐making’. The Commission has made a promise, and you all know very well that we have applied the subsidiarity principle. But it is always obviously possible to improve and in particular in those areas which are discussed in the Palacio report. For example, what the Commission does plan to do is to step up everything concerning the assessment of the consequences of proposed action. It has already provided for machinery for this purpose and intends to put it into practice and modernise it as far as possible.

Another point which I would like to mention is that which refers to the previous consultation of Green and White Papers. If this is to be continued, it is obvious that we shall have to do so in a more practical way in the future and in a more specific way. Consequently, I should like to tell Mrs Palacio that we are aware of this and we have taken note of the remarks she makes on this in her report.

We also feel – and this is a practice which has been pursued over recent years, especially the last two or three years – that, in respect of the practice which we used to have of legislating immediately, now, through the Green Papers and the White Papers, we are consulting society as a whole. The Green Paper actually asks questions. In some cases we have had to do so twice: we have had a first consultation, and if we were not satisfied with the responses that we received then we have issued a second Green Paper. For example, we took quite a long time over the subject of pluralism and concentration of media. Why? Because we did not really have a very clear idea of what the sector wanted and what society wanted for that sector. In other words this approach, which is closer to the citizen, is quite different from what used to be done in the past. First of all, we used to go straight to legislation. Now we try to find out with greater accuracy what the various positions are. However, in any case, I would like to insist that we have taken note of the observations made by Mrs Palacio and we are going to try to do something about them.

There is another point where I would like to thank Mrs Palacio for the caution she has shown in respect to particular issues. However, I would like to calm her fears in terms of framework directives. As you well know, framework directives are a subsidiarity instrument, recommended by the Edinburgh Summit and adopted by the Commission in certain cases, in specific cases, but it is not going to affect the unity of Community law if it is used in situations where it is justified. I would just like to tell Mrs Palacio that the Commission makes sure that that is the case.

Finally, I would like to thank the rapporteur for all of the remarks that she has made about the progress made by the Commission in the area of informative consolidation.

To conclude, the Commission is still convinced that it is appropriately applying the principle of subsidiarity which makes it possible to adopt appropriate legislation at the appropriate level – and in response to some of the remarks which have been made for example by Mr Corbett, which are along those lines, we agree that this approach brings the legislator much closer to the citizen.

  President . – Thank you very much, Commissioner.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow at 12 noon.

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