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The European Union and the multilateral system: Lessons from past experience and future challenges

05-03-2021

EPRS invites leading experts and commentators to share their thinking and insights on important features of the European Union as a political and economic system. In this paper, David O'Sullivan, former Secretary General of the European Commission and EU Ambassador to the United States, reflects on the Union's contribution to and standing in the multilateral system which it has done so much to support and pioneer, as well as on some of the issues that confront Europe if it is to maximise its influence ...

EPRS invites leading experts and commentators to share their thinking and insights on important features of the European Union as a political and economic system. In this paper, David O'Sullivan, former Secretary General of the European Commission and EU Ambassador to the United States, reflects on the Union's contribution to and standing in the multilateral system which it has done so much to support and pioneer, as well as on some of the issues that confront Europe if it is to maximise its influence in international economic fora of various kinds. Over the years, the European Union has become a key player on the international scene in many areas, from its role in economic and financial affairs to the importance of its development policy, its commitment to fight climate change and its engagement to defend human rights. The 2003 European Security Strategy, a milestone in the development of an independent EU foreign and security policy, already dedicated an entire section to the importance of 'an international order based on effective multilateralism'. This chapter of the strategy argued that regional organisations, such as the EU, are key actors in the multilateral system and strengthen global governance. As such, multilateralism is not only a cornerstone of the European external policy, as emphasised again by the 2016 EU Global Strategy, but it is a real 'identity factor' for the EU. The integration of the EU in the multilateral order has never been easy in a world dominated by state actors. Today, a complex international landscape poses many challenges to the Union, from the risk of collapse of the multilateral trading system to new strategies endorsed by key global players such as the United States and China. The very essence of the EU is to promote structures and systems which favour the gradual elaboration and implementation of common rules in all areas of economic activity. In that sense, the EU was moving with the Zeitgeist of the second half of the 20th century. Yet, the recent re-emergence of more traditional great power politics and a more transactional approach to both bilateral and multilateral negotiations threaten to change the rules of the game. The sui generis nature of the EU has long been recognised by both scholars and practitioners. For decades, the EU has been a puzzle to traditional diplomatic and international law approaches. Precisely defining this 'objet politique non identifié', to use the words of Jacques Delors, remains still today a complex task. Far from being a mere theoretical issue, the uniqueness of the EU has, in fact, very practical implications in the world of international politics. In particular, the complex nature of the EU directly challenges key multilateral fora such as the United Nations (UN), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the G7/G20 or the international financial institutions. These different institutions alternately seek to integrate the EU as an economic giant and growing political power and to relegate it to a secondary role as a simple regional organisation. As a result, the EU is forced to juggle between different political roles and institutional arrangements across the full breadth of the multilateral landscape. This paper looks at how the EU's singularity is overcome in practice. It also reflects on what are the perspectives for future developments, taking account of a particularly challenging multilateral context.

Εξωτερικός συντάκτης

David O'Sullivan

Understanding the European Commission's right to withdraw legislative proposals

05-03-2021

Although the European Commission exercises its right to withdraw a legislative proposal sparingly, doing so may become a contentious issue, particularly where a legislative proposal is withdrawn for reasons other than a lack of agreement between institutions or when a proposal clearly becomes obsolete – such as a perceived distortion of the purpose of the original proposal. Closely connected with the right of legislative initiative attributed to the Commission under the current Treaty rules, the ...

Although the European Commission exercises its right to withdraw a legislative proposal sparingly, doing so may become a contentious issue, particularly where a legislative proposal is withdrawn for reasons other than a lack of agreement between institutions or when a proposal clearly becomes obsolete – such as a perceived distortion of the purpose of the original proposal. Closely connected with the right of legislative initiative attributed to the Commission under the current Treaty rules, the European Court of Justice issued a judgment on the matter in case C 409/13. The Court spelled out the Commission's power to withdraw a proposal relative to the power of the two co-legislators, and also indicated the limits of this power. In this sense, the Court considers the Commission's power to withdraw proposals to be a corollary of its power of legislative initiative, which must be exercised in a reasoned manner and in a way that is amenable to judicial review. However, the Court's judgment does not solve all the issues connected to this matter. Whilst the judgment develops the Court's arguments along the lines of the current institutional setting, academia has expressed some concern as to whether the judgment is truly in line with the recently emerged push for a higher democratic character in institutional dynamics. The forthcoming Conference on the Future of Europe may provide the opportunity to rethink some of the issues surrounding the exercise of legislative initiative; which remains a matter of a constitutional and founding nature.

Reform of the Comitology Regulation

04-03-2021

On 14 February 2017, the European Commission adopted a proposal amending Regulation (EU) No 182/2011 (the 'Comitology Regulation') in order to increase the transparency and accountability of the decision-making process leading to the adoption of implementing acts. The main elements of the proposal include amending the voting rules for the Appeal Committee (AC) in order to reduce the risk of a no opinion scenario and to clarify the positions of the Member States, providing for the possibility of a ...

On 14 February 2017, the European Commission adopted a proposal amending Regulation (EU) No 182/2011 (the 'Comitology Regulation') in order to increase the transparency and accountability of the decision-making process leading to the adoption of implementing acts. The main elements of the proposal include amending the voting rules for the Appeal Committee (AC) in order to reduce the risk of a no opinion scenario and to clarify the positions of the Member States, providing for the possibility of a further referral to the AC at ministerial level if no opinion is delivered, and increasing the transparency of the comitology procedure by making public the votes of the Member States' representatives in the AC. Following the opinions of a number of committees, submitted in the previous and current terms, on 12 October 2020, Parliament's Committee on Legal Affairs adopted its report. It proposes to oblige Member States' representatives to give reasons for their vote, abstention or for any absence from the vote, and where particularly sensitive areas are concerned (consumer protection, health and safety of humans, animals or plants, or the environment), also case-specific detailed reasons for their vote or abstention. Other amendments concern better accessibility to the comitology register to increase transparency for citizens, and empowering Parliament and Council to call on the Commission to submit a proposal amending the basic act, where they deem it appropriate to review the implementing powers granted to the Commission. A partial first-reading report was adopted on 17 December 2020 in plenary and the file was referred back to the Legal Affairs Committee for interinstitutional negotiations. First edition. The 'EU Legislation in Progress' briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure.

The European Ombudsman's activities in 2019

03-03-2021

At the first plenary session of March 2021, the European Parliament is set to discuss and adopt a resolution on the European Ombudsman's activities in the year 2019, based on the Ombudsman's annual report presented on 4 May 2020. The report covers the final year of Emily O'Reilly's first mandate as Ombudsman before her re election for a second term in late December 2019.

At the first plenary session of March 2021, the European Parliament is set to discuss and adopt a resolution on the European Ombudsman's activities in the year 2019, based on the Ombudsman's annual report presented on 4 May 2020. The report covers the final year of Emily O'Reilly's first mandate as Ombudsman before her re election for a second term in late December 2019.

Strengthening cooperation with the Council of Europe

26-02-2021

This study, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the AFCO Committee, assesses the possible strengthening of the cooperation of the European Union with the Council of Europe. It examines, on the one side, the participation of Council of Europe bodies in the EU Mechanism on Democracy, the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights, and, on the other, the accession of the European Union to Council of Europe Treaties, and ...

This study, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the AFCO Committee, assesses the possible strengthening of the cooperation of the European Union with the Council of Europe. It examines, on the one side, the participation of Council of Europe bodies in the EU Mechanism on Democracy, the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights, and, on the other, the accession of the European Union to Council of Europe Treaties, and particularly to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Εξωτερικός συντάκτης

Luis María LOPEZ GUERRA, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.

Complementary executive capacity

15-02-2021

Against the backdrop of new and unprecedented crises and challenges, the advantages of coordinated approaches and effective cross-border responses are all the more evident, and gaining support among Europeans, as shown by recent Eurobarometer surveys. In this context, EU complementary executive capacity could be a way of meeting citizens' expectations, through complementing, without replacing, the executive capacities of the Member States. The concept of complementary EU executive capacity dovetails ...

Against the backdrop of new and unprecedented crises and challenges, the advantages of coordinated approaches and effective cross-border responses are all the more evident, and gaining support among Europeans, as shown by recent Eurobarometer surveys. In this context, EU complementary executive capacity could be a way of meeting citizens' expectations, through complementing, without replacing, the executive capacities of the Member States. The concept of complementary EU executive capacity dovetails naturally with the ongoing transformation of the EU from a legislative union to a hybrid (legislative–executive) union, as it becomes more involved in implementing law rather than purely enacting it. Essentially, the notion repackages pre-existing administrative practices in a way that facilitates their operationalisation, draws attention to new areas of potential EU executive involvement, and presents a tool for communication with citizens that can be understood.

Plenary round-up – February 2021

12-02-2021

The main debates held during the February 2021 plenary session concerned the state of play of the EU's Covid 19 vaccination strategy and the de facto abortion ban in Poland. Members also debated democratic scrutiny of social media platforms and the protection of fundamental rights, including the challenges ahead for women's rights more than 25 years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action The impact of coronavirus on young people and sport, relief measures for the transport sector, ...

The main debates held during the February 2021 plenary session concerned the state of play of the EU's Covid 19 vaccination strategy and the de facto abortion ban in Poland. Members also debated democratic scrutiny of social media platforms and the protection of fundamental rights, including the challenges ahead for women's rights more than 25 years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action The impact of coronavirus on young people and sport, relief measures for the transport sector, homologation and distribution of transparent masks and the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia were also discussed. Members debated statements by High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission, Josep Borell, on his visit to Russia in the light of the recent crackdown on protestors and the opposition, on the humanitarian and political situation in Yemen, and on the situation in Myanmar.

Transnational electoral lists: Ways to Europeanise elections to the European Parliament

08-02-2021

Aiming to feed into the forthcoming Conference on the Future of Europe and debate in the European Parliament on possible reforms of the 1976 European Electoral Act, this paper from the European Parliamentary Research Service analyses the main proposals to create a European constituency (or constituencies), in which Members of the European Parliament would be elected from transnational electoral lists. Such proposals have been discussed over the years in the European Parliament itself, as well as ...

Aiming to feed into the forthcoming Conference on the Future of Europe and debate in the European Parliament on possible reforms of the 1976 European Electoral Act, this paper from the European Parliamentary Research Service analyses the main proposals to create a European constituency (or constituencies), in which Members of the European Parliament would be elected from transnational electoral lists. Such proposals have been discussed over the years in the European Parliament itself, as well as in other European and national institutions and academia. Following a review of these proposals, the paper then details the legal changes that would be needed at European and national levels to bring the idea to fruition.

European Commission: Facts and Figures

04-02-2021

The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union. Under the Treaties, its tasks are to 'promote the general interest of the Union', without prejudice to individual Member States, to 'ensure the application of the Treaties' and adopted measures, and to 'execute the budget'. It also holds a virtual monopoly on the right of legislative initiative, alone proposing nearly all EU legislation to the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. The College of Commissioners is currently ...

The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union. Under the Treaties, its tasks are to 'promote the general interest of the Union', without prejudice to individual Member States, to 'ensure the application of the Treaties' and adopted measures, and to 'execute the budget'. It also holds a virtual monopoly on the right of legislative initiative, alone proposing nearly all EU legislation to the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. The College of Commissioners is currently composed of 27 individuals: the President, Ursula von der Leyen, three Executive Vice-Presidents, five Vice-Presidents and eighteen Commissioners. The Executive Vice-Presidents both manage a specific portfolio and coordinate one of the core parts of the Commission's political agenda. The five Vice-Presidents each coordinate a single specific policy priority. The other Commissioners manage the specific portfolios, under the coordination of the Vice-Presidents. This Briefing sets out the responsibilities, composition and work of the Commission and its leadership, both in the current Commission and in the past. It also gives details of the staff of the Commission’s departments, their main places of employment, gender distribution and national background, as well as providing a breakdown of the EU’s administrative budget and budgetary management responsibilities.

Democratic institutions and prosperity: The benefits of an open society

04-02-2021

The ongoing structural transformation and the rapid spread of the technologies of the fourth industrial revolution are challenging current democratic institutions and their established forms of governance and regulation. At the same time, these changes offer vast opportunities to enhance, strengthen and expand the existing democratic framework to reflect a more complex and interdependent world. This process has already begun in many democratic societies but further progress is needed. Examining these ...

The ongoing structural transformation and the rapid spread of the technologies of the fourth industrial revolution are challenging current democratic institutions and their established forms of governance and regulation. At the same time, these changes offer vast opportunities to enhance, strengthen and expand the existing democratic framework to reflect a more complex and interdependent world. This process has already begun in many democratic societies but further progress is needed. Examining these issues involves looking at the impact of ongoing complex and simultaneous changes on the theoretical framework underpinning beneficial democratic regulation. More specifically, combining economic, legal and political perspectives, it is necessary to explore how some adaptations to existing democratic institutions could further improve the functioning of democracies while also delivering additional economic benefits to citizens and society as whole. The introduction of a series of promising new tools could offer a potential way to support democratic decision-makers in regulating complexity and tackling ongoing and future challenges. The first of these tools is to use strategic foresight to anticipate and control future events; the second is collective intelligence, following the idea that citizens are collectively capable of providing better solutions to regulatory problems than are public administrations; the third and fourth are concerned with design-thinking and algorithmic regulation respectively. Design-based approaches are credited with opening up innovative options for policy-makers, while algorithms hold the promise of enabling decision-making to handle complex issues while remaining participatory.

Προσεχείς εκδηλώσεις

15-03-2021
EPRS online Book Talk with Vivien Schmidt: Legitimacy and power in the EU
Άλλη δραστηριότητα -
EPRS
16-03-2021
EPRS online policy roundtable: New European Bauhaus
Άλλη δραστηριότητα -
EPRS
17-03-2021
Hearing on Responsibilities of transport operators and other private stakeholders
Ακρόαση -
ANIT

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