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Implementation of the new rules introduced by the TFEU has obliged each institution to get its bearings, sometimes with difficulty

One of the distinguishing features of the legislature drawing to a close has been the adjustment to the new rules established by the Lisbon Treaty (TFEU). The European Parliament acquired new powers that, in some cases, it is still managing hesitantly. Isabelle Thomas (S&D, France), rapporteur for the Committee on Fisheries (PECH) on compliance with the TFEU of the fisheries control regulation, assessed this exercise for Europolitics.

How do you rate implementation of the TFEU?

The near-universal application of co-decision is something of a revolution because it makes Parliament a veritable co-legislator. But it is only slowly measuring the extent of its powers. There was not an abrupt change but there has been more of a slowly growing awareness and Parliament has made little use of its possibility to stop the process. We saw it used with the report on ACTA {Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement - Ed], where it rejected the Commission's proposal, and on the budget, where there was a veto threat issued early in the process so as to be in a position to negotiate on substance. Parliament has used this right constructively and has thus been able to impose additional rules like flexibility in budget lines between programmes. It gave up in other cases, for example on maritime spatial planning and integrated coastal zone management, letting a whole section of its position get scrapped in the three-way talks. This relates to who is negotiating and their awareness of co-decision and how they have to apply it. If we stay in the old patterns of thought where the Council and Commission are seen as having a sort of 'superiority', Parliament will always lose a few feathers. On the other hand, if we have high esteem for the EP's role in these negotiations we will be firmer. The results depend on the negotiating team.

Is there a new balance of power?

The Commission's position has changed. The Commission and Council used to dominate the legislative process. It was more a game of two than of three. The game of two has now shifted from one of Commission-Council or Commission-EP to one of Council-EP. On an issue like fisheries technical measures, the EP and Council were in agreement. The Commission was opposed and tried to get back into the discussion but the EP and Council sent it packing, arguing that they are the sole co-legislators. It is too early to draw any conclusions. Neither side has enough experience of co-decision and three-way talks at this stage. It will take a few years for institutional procedural case law to stabilise. There will still be times when the EP will be almost obsessed with not wanting to give in and others when it will go overboard on concessions, without playing its role to the full.

With delegated acts and implementing acts, has adaptation to the TFEU been difficult?

Delegated acts and implementing acts are a 'tartufferie' [hypocritical - Ed] in terms of EP competences. Delegated acts are those that the EP delegates to the Commission but for which it has the final say, since it is supposed to scrutinise them a posteriori. Scrutiny implies correcting or rejecting measures or imposing other rules, which gives Parliament an important role. There are thousands of delegated acts every week: in my opinion, their scrutiny by the EP is a sham. And if there is no scrutiny there is no power.

The EP decided to rely on delegated acts to the detriment of implementing acts. Deciding an implementing act means losing the upper hand, taking on a role of executor. To regain control, legislation has to be revised. On the other hand, delegated acts are simply 'delegated': there is an interval during which to analyse how the Commission applies them. That's where the problem lies: with the means at its disposal, the EP cannot carry out such scrutiny. If there are too many delegated acts, by modifying legislation we can bring a delegated act back into the EP's ambit. The TFEU establishes a hierarchy. At the top is legislation adopted under co-decision, followed by delegated acts taken by the Commission but under EP and Council scrutiny, and lastly, implementing acts on which we trust the Commission.

The EP gives precedence to delegated acts on the grounds that it has a power of scrutiny. But this power is artificial. The Council prefers implementing acts because it thinks that, with its experts, it can influence decisions, and the Commission relies on delegated acts because it thinks that the EP will have no control over them. The situation is a real power chase. But a sound organisation of powers should not be a power chase: each one should know its position and role. That apparently is not sought by anyone, though, because the treaty is badly constructed: it has very positive advances - extended powers for the EP and co-decision that enhance democracy - but also too many grey areas in the way the sharing of powers is organised.
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Title Annotation:Member of the European Parliament
Publication:European Report
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Mar 20, 2014

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