Rules of Procedure: amendments for “extraordinary circumstances” 

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The Constitutional Affairs Committee proposes new Rules that would make Parliament better equipped to ensure the continuity of its work in future crises.

The draft report by Gabriele Bischoff (S&D, DE) was adopted by the Constitutional Affairs Committee, setting out a proposal for the amendment of Parliaments Rules of Procedure. The new rules will ensure that Parliament will have provisions in place to facilitate its functioning in extraordinary circumstances, taking into account lessons learnt from the COVID-19 sanitary crisis. Following a vote on amendments during the first part of the meeting on Monday, the final text was approved with 25 votes in favour, none against and three abstentions late in the evening.


Parliament in the COVID-19 pandemic

The adopted report underlines that the temporary measures adopted by President Sassoli and EP governing bodies in compliance with the rule of law were necessary, in the absence of alternatives, to guarantee the continuity of Parliament’s business, and that they allowed Parliament to carry out its legislative, budgetary and political control functions during the crisis, as required by the Treaties.


New rules

The proposed changes envision the activation of emergency measures by the President, with consent from the Conference of Presidents (i.e. the President and political group leaders), for the entirety or part of Parliament’s work. If it is deemed necessary, including when Parliament’s political balance is disturbed, such measures may include the postponement, displacement or remote organisation of activities. Extraordinary measures will have to be activated for a specific amount of time and only for events that are exceptional, unforeseeable, and outside Parliament’s control. Further, MEPs will be able to reverse these decisions by simple majority in Parliament’s plenary sessions. Attention was also given to ensuring that MEPs can participate equally, freely and in their native language (to the greatest possible extent), and through secure electronic systems.


Quote

“Extraordinary situations require extraordinary measures, but we cannot forget that Parliament is the cornerstone of European democracy. Citizens depend on us. This report focuses on the principles of representative democracy, equal treatment, mandate freedom and the right of MEPs to speak and vote freely, in their personal capacity, while making sure that that Parliament remains fully operational even in the most difficult circumstances”, said the rapporteur.


You can watch a recording of the debate on the original report (14 July) here.

Next steps

The amended report will be tabled at the November plenary sitting at the earliest.


Background

A “Rules of Procedure Working Group” was set up by the Constitutional Affairs Committee to assess changes needed in light of the sanitary crisis, with representatives from political groups and non-attached MEPs. It met eight times between early May and July 2020.


The current precautionary measures ensuring that Parliament can continue to perform its functions are temporary in nature and were decided urgently to address an unprecedented situation. By clicking here and here you can access a brief overview of how the Parliament has continued to work during the pandemic.