Legislative Procedure

The legislative activity within the EU is carried out with the cooperation of three main EU institutions: the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.

The main legislative activity in the EU is called the “co-decision” mechanism, also known as “Ordinary Legislative Procedure”. The most significant feature of the ordinary legislative procedure is that, within this mechanism, the European Parliament is granted the right to veto and to share the responsibility to decide along with the Council. The competences of the European Parliament have been constantly increased by the treaties that were signed up until now. With the Lisbon Treaty, the areas falling in the co-decision mechanism has been expanded.

Within the European Union, the legislation proposals are prepared by the Commission. The economic, social and environmental impacts of the modifications of the draft legislation are being analyzed. The Commission, while preparing the legislation proposals, hold consultations with the relevant parties such as local authorities, civil society organizations and representatives of several industries. Institutions and the EU citizens can also participate to this consultation procedure.

The regulation called “European Citizens’ Initiative” has entered into the acquis with the Lisbon Treaty. This initiative, whose framework was determined by the Regulation dated February 15th, 2011, will be valid as of April 1st, 2012. Seen by many as a crucial step towards the democratization of Europe, the “Citizens’ Initiative” foresees that EU citizens can  push the European Commission to make some legislative changes by gathering  the signatures of one million EU citizens with the condition that these signatures are from at least one quarter  of EU Member States.

The legislation is ensured by a common agreement between the European Commission and the Council of Ministers. The European Parliament can ask for some modifications in the draft resolution.

National parliaments, too, can express their reservations regarding the legislation procedure, when they believe that a resolution at national level would be more effective than at EU level.

The Lisbon Treaty states that the national parliaments could contribute to the well-functioning of the Union; therefore it brought new provisions in order to make these actors closer to the decision-making process. Within this framework, it became crucial to inform national parliaments about the procedures of EU institutions. This information procedure, which was formerly held by the Commission unofficially and in compliance with the provisions of the Nice Treaty, would function in accordance to the new Treaty provisions as follows:

•    The Commission consultation documents (Green and White Papers, communiqués), subsequent to their publication, are forwarded to national parliaments directly by the Commission. Along with the annual legislation programme, the Commission also presents the legislation planning and the political means to national parliaments at the same time as the European Parliament and the Council.
•    Draft legislation documents that are sent to the European Parliament and the Council are forwarded to national parliaments.
•    Draft legislation documents that are originated from the Commission are forwarded to national parliaments at the same time as the European Parliament and the Council.
•    Legislative acts that are originated from the European Parliament are directly forwarded to national parliaments by the European Parliament.
•    Legislative acts that are originated from a group of Member States, the Court of Justice, the European Central Bank or the European Investment Bank, are forwarded directly to national parliaments by the Council.
•    The European Court of Auditors forwards its annual report to national parliaments, at the same time with the European Parliament and the Council with the intention to inform them.
•    All the Council meeting notes, including the notes of the meetings where  negotiations are carried on over the draft legislation, are forwarded to the governments and national parliaments of Member States.

The legislative activity, excluding the ordinary legislative procedure, is known as the “Special Legislative Procedure” and can be gathered under two main titles: Consultation Procedure and Consent Procedure.

The most significant point to be mentioned about the Consultation Procedure is the right given to the EP to issue an opinion. However, this opinion does not have a binding effect; in other words, after consulting the EP, the Council can finalize the legislation procedure which does not necessarily reflect the EP’s opinion.

In the Consent Procedure, in the case the Commission’s proposal or the agreement in which the EU takes part is approved; it can be adopted by the Council of Ministers and the agreement in question can be signed by the Council. Many international agreements and accession agreements in which the EU will take part are subject to the consent procedure.

These two methods, however, are exceptional procedures.


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