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The Conference on the Future of Europe

01-06-2021

The Conference on the Future of Europe is a bottom-up exercise allowing European citizens to express their opinion on the Union's future policies and functioning. It uses tools such as the Digital Platform and Citizens' Panels to enable them to discuss topics that matter to them. This EPRS infographic sets out the structures of the conference, how they will work and the topics to be discussed.

The Conference on the Future of Europe is a bottom-up exercise allowing European citizens to express their opinion on the Union's future policies and functioning. It uses tools such as the Digital Platform and Citizens' Panels to enable them to discuss topics that matter to them. This EPRS infographic sets out the structures of the conference, how they will work and the topics to be discussed.

Conference on the Future of Europe

07-05-2021

After many debates and statements of principle in recent years, the time for a more structured discussion on the future of Europe's development has arrived. The Conference on the Future of Europe, announced by the Commission's President Ursula von der Leyen in her inaugural address, is set to start after a long period of standstill owing not only to changed priorities brought by the coronavirus pandemic, but also to lengthy negotiations among the institutions. The aim of the conference is to debate ...

After many debates and statements of principle in recent years, the time for a more structured discussion on the future of Europe's development has arrived. The Conference on the Future of Europe, announced by the Commission's President Ursula von der Leyen in her inaugural address, is set to start after a long period of standstill owing not only to changed priorities brought by the coronavirus pandemic, but also to lengthy negotiations among the institutions. The aim of the conference is to debate how the EU should develop in the future, identify where it is rising to the challenges of current times, and enhance those areas that need reform or strengthening. A key aspect of this initiative is to bring the public closer to the EU institutions, listen to people's concerns, involve them directly in the process of the Conference and provide an adequate and meaningful response. In this respect, the ambition is to set up pan-European forums for discussion, for the first time ever, where citizens of all Member States can debate the EU's priorities and make recommendations, to be taken into account by the political-institutional powers that be and, ideally, translated into practical measures. The pandemic hit as the preparation of the conference was just beginning and inevitably caused a delay. In March 2021, the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission agreed on a joint declaration, laying down the common rules and principles governing the conference. It was agreed that the leadership of the conference would be shared by the three institutions, with the conference chaired jointly by their three presidents. The Conference on the Future of Europe has all the prerequisites to be an excellent opportunity to engage in a more structured debate between institutions and citizens, and arrive at concrete proposals to improve the way the EU works, in terms not only of institutional dynamics, but also of policies. Some have cautioned however that the initiative must be conducted with the utmost care, in particular as regards the follow-up, so that it remains a meaningful endeavour. This is an updated edition of a Briefing from December 2019.

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.

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 ...

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.

States of emergency in response to the coronavirus crisis: Normative response and parliamentary oversight in EU Member States during the first wave of the pandemic

04-12-2020

This study examines the normative response of the 27 EU Member States during the first phase of the Covid 19 pandemic (March to mid June 2020) and parliamentary oversight over the measures adopted. The study reveals that Member States' normative responses to the pandemic were generally efficient, as very few of them were not preventively equipped with a set of rules enabling the national authorities to adopt the containment measures needed to address the first peak of the health crisis, and because ...

This study examines the normative response of the 27 EU Member States during the first phase of the Covid 19 pandemic (March to mid June 2020) and parliamentary oversight over the measures adopted. The study reveals that Member States' normative responses to the pandemic were generally efficient, as very few of them were not preventively equipped with a set of rules enabling the national authorities to adopt the containment measures needed to address the first peak of the health crisis, and because the Member States lacking those normative tools were able to adopt the necessary empowering legislative acts quickly. The study also reveals that all EU national parliaments played some role in the management of the pandemic, either through the supervision of the measures adopted by the executive to contain the spread of the virus or through the exercise of their ordinary legislative and budgetary powers to provide the government with the normative tools needed to address the pandemic.

States of emergency in response to the coronavirus crisis: Situation in certain Member States IV

07-07-2020

With the virulence of the coronavirus pandemic gradually diminishing, and in the light of the restrictive measures adopted by Member States, attention remains on the way chosen by the various states to respond to the crisis. With states at various stages of relaxing emergency constraints, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic are likely to last in terms of health, economic, social, psychological and possibly even political impact. Although public attention is now turned towards the widely differing ...

With the virulence of the coronavirus pandemic gradually diminishing, and in the light of the restrictive measures adopted by Member States, attention remains on the way chosen by the various states to respond to the crisis. With states at various stages of relaxing emergency constraints, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic are likely to last in terms of health, economic, social, psychological and possibly even political impact. Although public attention is now turned towards the widely differing measures that states are taking in order to live with the virus, new challenges are emerging as international and domestic traffic, trade and free movement of people are re-established, having been all but frozen. In this context, it is still necessary to complete the overview of Member States' constitutional frameworks in response to the coronavirus pandemic with the hope that this might offer some guidance or insight, should a comparable crisis arise in the future. This is the last in a series of four briefings and completes the comparative overview of Member States' institutional responses to the coronavirus crisis by analysing the legislation of Cyprus, Czechia, Greece, Ireland, Lithuania and Slovakia. The first in the series gave an overview of the responses in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Spain, the second covered Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Malta, Romania and Slovenia, while the third covered Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden.

Conference on the Future of Europe

11-06-2020

Announced by Ursula von der Leyen and supported by Parliament, the Conference on the Future of Europe was supposed to offer the opportunity for a thorough reflection on the direction of the EU and its institutional set up. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has halted the preparation process, with the result that the three institutions have not yet agreed on the format, composition and structure of the Conference. Parliament is nevertheless fully engaged in resuming this initiative as soon as possible ...

Announced by Ursula von der Leyen and supported by Parliament, the Conference on the Future of Europe was supposed to offer the opportunity for a thorough reflection on the direction of the EU and its institutional set up. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has halted the preparation process, with the result that the three institutions have not yet agreed on the format, composition and structure of the Conference. Parliament is nevertheless fully engaged in resuming this initiative as soon as possible in the post-coronavirus context, and will debate the issue with the Council and Commission during the June plenary session.

States of emergency in response to the coronavirus crisis: Situation in certain Member States

04-05-2020

With the first case of unknown pneumonia reported in the province of Wuhan (People's Republic of China) on 31 December 2019, within few weeks the coronavirus (Covid-19) was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 30 January 2020. Since then it has spread to most corners of the globe. While the health threat it poses and the challenge it represents for human health is paramount, no less important is the strain it puts on the legal order. For most of the affected countries, in particular ...

With the first case of unknown pneumonia reported in the province of Wuhan (People's Republic of China) on 31 December 2019, within few weeks the coronavirus (Covid-19) was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 30 January 2020. Since then it has spread to most corners of the globe. While the health threat it poses and the challenge it represents for human health is paramount, no less important is the strain it puts on the legal order. For most of the affected countries, in particular in the EU, this outbreak is posing unprecedented institutional challenges and has obliged institutions and governments to adopt strict measures affecting citizens' rights in a way unparalleled since the Second World War. While some Member States' constitutions include mechanisms allowing for recourse to a 'state of emergency' or the entrustment of special powers to specific institutions, other Member States' legal orders do not, either for historic reasons or owing to institutional tradition. Crucial aspects of the exercise of public powers under a pandemic threat include not only the extent of the measures adopted, but also their legitimacy, raising the question of their duration and of the degree of parliamentary oversight. This briefing is the first in a series intended to offer a comparative overview of the institutional responses adopted in different Member States, in the light of i) the constitutional framework for the state of emergency or legitimation of the emergency legislation ii) the specific measures adopted, iii) the extent of the parliamentary oversight exercised over the measures adopted. This first briefing, therefore, offers an overview of the responses to the coronavirus pandemic in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Spain.

Parliament's right of legislative initiative

12-02-2020

The European Commission has a near monopoly on legislative initiative in the European Union (EU), with special initiative rights for other institutions applying only in certain specific cases. However, the European Parliament and the Council may invite the Commission to submit legislative proposals. Whilst this 'indirect' initiative right does not create an obligation on the Commission to propose the legislation requested, the Treaty of Lisbon codified the Commission's obligation to provide reasons ...

The European Commission has a near monopoly on legislative initiative in the European Union (EU), with special initiative rights for other institutions applying only in certain specific cases. However, the European Parliament and the Council may invite the Commission to submit legislative proposals. Whilst this 'indirect' initiative right does not create an obligation on the Commission to propose the legislation requested, the Treaty of Lisbon codified the Commission's obligation to provide reasons for any refusal to follow a parliamentary initiative. Against this backdrop, some argue that Parliament could take the Commission to the Court of Justice of the EU if it fails to justify a negative decision. Others see Parliament's increasing participation in overall political planning – particularly through negotiations on the Commission's annual work programme (CWP) – as a further channel for Parliament to increase its influence on EU legislation. It is thus argued that the increased role of Parliament in the legislative procedure should have reduced the need for its Members to make use of legislative initiatives. Notwithstanding that, there is a trend towards greater use of formal parliamentary legislative initiatives to assert greater influence on the political process. Most recently, in her inaugural address in July 2019 and in her Political Guidelines, the then newly elected President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, pledged to strengthen the partnership with the European Parliament, inter alia, by responding with a proposal for a legislative act whenever Parliament, acting by a majority of its members, adopts a resolution requesting that the Commission submit legislative proposals. She added that this commitment would have to be in full respect of the proportionality, subsidiarity and better law-making principles. President von der Leyen also declared herself supportive of moves towards recognition of a right for Parliament of legislative initiative. This briefing is an update of a European Parliament Library briefing from 2013, by Eva-Maria Poptcheva.

Preparing the Conference on the Future of Europe

03-12-2019

After the many debates and declarations of principles on the future of Europe of recent years, the time for a more structured reflection on the future of Europe's development has arrived. The new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen has pledged to establish a Conference on the Future of Europe, in an effort to give new impulse to European construction and bring Europe closer to citizens. At this stage, details of this initiative are still up for discussion. For Dubravka Šuica ...

After the many debates and declarations of principles on the future of Europe of recent years, the time for a more structured reflection on the future of Europe's development has arrived. The new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen has pledged to establish a Conference on the Future of Europe, in an effort to give new impulse to European construction and bring Europe closer to citizens. At this stage, details of this initiative are still up for discussion. For Dubravka Šuica, the Commissioner who will take charge of the process, the inclusion of all citizens' voices will be an essential characteristic of the Conference. However, how to ensure that European citizens are properly represented remains to be clarified. Preparation of the Conference, in von der Leyen's approach, will follow three steps: first, the elaboration of the concept, structure, timing and scope with Parliament and Council; then, design of a means to ensure that citizens participate as much as possible, including by fostering online participation for younger people; and last, making sure that appropriate follow-up is provided to the actions agreed by the Conference. The Parliament has created a working group to contribute to the design of the Conference, in particular in respect of its structure, with a view to a vote in plenary. Parliament's Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) has also launched discussions, confirming the eagerness of Parliament and its political bodies to play an active part from the beginning of this process. The Conference on the Future of Europe should be an excellent opportunity to engage in more structured debate, with the intention to find concrete proposals to improve the way in which the EU works not only in terms of institutional dynamics, but also of its policies. Some have however cautioned that the initiative needs to be carried out with the utmost care, in particular on the follow-up to be given to its outcomes, so that it can remain a meaningful endeavour.

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AIDA-AGRI Public Hearing on AI, Agriculture and Food Security
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Workshop: the EU's current role in GRECO and ambitions for the future
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Public Hearing on "Various aspects of women in poverty following the COVID impact"
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