From wish to law: EU summit conclusions and how they (not always) become law 


How easy is it to turn an intergovernmental agreement into law? Once the leaders of EU countries agree on the need for new European legislation at Council summits, it can still take a long time before the final legal texts are approved by the European Parliament and the national governments. The speed of this process depends as much on the issue as the political environment, but it is clear that translating the promises made at summits into practical measures is not an easy process.

The European Council brings together the leaders of the member states to discuss the issues affecting the EU and provide guidance on what should be done next. It sets the EU's agenda, covering anything from the crisis to relations with foreign powers, which governments must then implement based on common rules.

The European Commission comes up with legislative proposals based on the guidance provided by the national governments, which are then debated, modified and then either approved or rejected by both the European Parliament and the Council.

However, much can happen between the original request and the adoption of the new legislation as governments can disagree on specific aspects of a proposal they asked for themselves, leading to the legislation to be shelved for months, years or even decades.

To keep track of all this, the EP's Parliamentary Research Service now carries out a check-list of legislative commitments and where they are in the decision-making process, colour-coding them to show what stage the proposals are at: green for complete, yellow for some progress and red for no progress at all.

When you break down the data by policy area, it becomes clear that the key priority for policy makers these last few years has been tackling the crisis. Economic, financial and social policies directly related to the crisis show the highest completion rate, leaving environment or external policies far behind.

The reasons behind "no progress" or "some progress" can vary greatly and sometimes can be beyond the control of the EU and its member states, but delays are often due to disagreements between member states.

Although the chart cannot provide all the answers, it is a useful tool to help understand when there is agreement and where much remains to be done.

Check our chart and then read the full report here.