Passerelle clauses in the EU Treaties: Opportunities for more flexible supranational decision-making

16-12-2020

Passerelle clauses are a mechanism for introducing Treaty change of a very specific nature. They modify the decision-making rules that affect acts of the Council, by allowing a shift from unanimity to qualified majority voting or from a special legislative procedure to the ordinary legislative procedure. This study explores the differences between passerelle clauses and other flexibility measures (enhanced cooperation, the flexibility clause, and accelerator or brake clauses) and explores the main legal issues surrounding the introduction, revocation, and effects of passerelle clauses and their relationship with the other Treaty revision mechanisms. The analysis focuses not only on the two general passerelle clauses set out in Article 48(7) TEU, but also on the specific passerelle clauses contained in the Treaties in the field of environment, social policy, the multiannual financial framework, common foreign and security policy, family law and enhanced cooperation. Finally, the study outlines recent Commission proposals to use general and/or specific passerelles in certain policy areas, and the approaches taken by other institutions with respect to this constitutional tool.

Passerelle clauses are a mechanism for introducing Treaty change of a very specific nature. They modify the decision-making rules that affect acts of the Council, by allowing a shift from unanimity to qualified majority voting or from a special legislative procedure to the ordinary legislative procedure. This study explores the differences between passerelle clauses and other flexibility measures (enhanced cooperation, the flexibility clause, and accelerator or brake clauses) and explores the main legal issues surrounding the introduction, revocation, and effects of passerelle clauses and their relationship with the other Treaty revision mechanisms. The analysis focuses not only on the two general passerelle clauses set out in Article 48(7) TEU, but also on the specific passerelle clauses contained in the Treaties in the field of environment, social policy, the multiannual financial framework, common foreign and security policy, family law and enhanced cooperation. Finally, the study outlines recent Commission proposals to use general and/or specific passerelles in certain policy areas, and the approaches taken by other institutions with respect to this constitutional tool.