Category Archives: The Decision-Making Process and the Work of the Institutions

In order to implement EU policies, the European institutions adopt legal acts in accordance with the rules and procedures set out in the Treaties. In general, the European Commission proposes the legal acts, which are then adopted by the Council and the European Parliament. The three main procedures are consultation, assent and codecision.
Citizens also have a say in the development of Community policies. In the early 2000s, the Commission launched a major initiative to make the decision-making process more transparent, more efficient and more democratic. The aim of this initiative is to bring the European institutions closer to the citizen.

Access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents

Access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Institutional affairs > The decision-making process and the work of the institutions

Access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents

Document or Iniciative

Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents.

Summary

The purpose of this Regulation is to facilitate access to the documents * of the European institutions. It provides that citizens may access any type of documents, subject to the conditions defined in the Regulation and the exceptions laid out therein. It applies to all documents held by an institution, that is to say, documents drawn up or received by it and in its possession, in all areas of activity of the European Union (EU).

Beneficiaries are any EU citizens and any natural or legal persons residing or having their headquarters in a Member State.

Exceptions and rights of third parties

The institutions can refuse access to a document where disclosure would undermine the protection of:

  • the public interest as regards public security, defence, international relations, and the financial, monetary or economic policy of the Community or a Member State;
  • privacy and the integrity of an individual, in particular in accordance with Community legislation regarding the protection of personal data;
  • a person’s commercial interests;
  • court proceedings and legal advice;
  • the purpose of inspections, investigations and audits.

The European institutions may refuse to disclose a particular document if this is justified by an overriding public interest.

Access to a document drawn up by an institution for internal use may be refused if disclosure of the document would seriously undermine the institution’s decision-making process, unless there is an overriding public interest in disclosure.

As regards third-party documents *, the institution must consult the third party with a view to assessing whether an exception is applicable.

Documents in the Member States

Where a Member State receives a request for a document in its possession, originating from an institution, the Member State consults with the institution concerned, in order to take a decision that does not jeopardise the attainment of the objectives of this Regulation. The Member State may instead refer the request to the institution.

Applications, processing of applications and access to documents

Applications for access to a document must be made in written form, including electronic form, in one of the languages of the EU. The applicant is not obliged to state reasons for the application.

An application for access to a document must be handled promptly. An acknowledgement of receipt must be sent to the applicant. Within 15 working days from the registration of the application, the institution must either grant access to the document requested, or refuse access.

In the event of total or partial refusal, the applicant may, within 15 working days of receiving the institution’s reply, make a confirmatory application asking the institution to reconsider its position.

The applicant has access to documents either by consulting them on the spot or by receiving a copy.

Treatment of sensitive documents

Sensitive documents are documents originating from the institutions or the agencies established by them, from Member States, third countries or international organisations, classified as “TRÈS SECRET/TOP SECRET”, “SECRET” or “CONFIDENTIAL”. Applications for access to sensitive documents must be handled only by those persons who have a right to acquaint themselves with those documents. Sensitive documents are recorded in the register or released only with the consent of the originator.

Registers and administrative practice

To facilitate access to documents, each institution must provide access to a register of documents. Access to the register should be provided in electronic form.

The Member States must cooperate with the institutions in providing information to the citizens. The institutions must develop good administrative practices, in order to facilitate the exercise of the right of access guaranteed by this Regulation. They must establish an inter-institutional committee to examine best practice, address possible conflicts and discuss future developments on public access to documents.

Publication in the Official Journal

The following documents are published in the Official Journal:

  • Commission proposals;
  • common positions adopted pursuant to Articles 251 and 252 of the EC Treaty;
  • framework decisions, decisions and conventions referred to in Article 34 of the Treaty on European Union (EU Treaty);
  • conventions signed between Member States on the basis of Article 293 of the EC Treaty;
  • international agreements concluded by the Community or in accordance with Article 24 of the EU Treaty.

Reports and application measures

Every year, each institution publishes a report for the preceding year, indicating the number of cases in which the institution refused to grant access to documents, the reasons for such refusals and the number of sensitive documents not recorded in the register.

Key terms used in the act
  • Document: any content whatever its medium (written on paper or stored in electronic form or as a sound, visual or audiovisual recording) concerning a matter relating to the policies, activities and decisions falling within the institution’s sphere of responsibility.
  • Third party: any natural or legal person, or any entity outside the institution concerned, including the Member States, other Community or non-Community institutions and bodies, and third countries.

References

Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Regulation No 1049/2001

3.12.2001

OJ L 145 of 31.5.2001

Related Acts

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 April 2008 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents [COM(2008) 229 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

This proposal seeks to amend Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 in light of the European Parliament’s motion for a resolution of 4 April 2006 on access to the institutions’ texts (A6-0052/2006), the Regulation (EC) No 1367/2006 of 6 September 2006 on the Aarhus Convention, and the public consultation on the review of the Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 (SEC(2008) 29/2).
The proposal underpins amendments with regard to the following Articles:

  • the purpose of the Regulation, which is to grant public access to the institutions’ documents;
  • the beneficiaries of the Regulation, who may be any natural or legal persons, regardless of their nationality or State of residence;
  • the scope of the Regulation, which excludes documents submitted to Courts by third parties. The scope also excludes documents related to an investigation as long as the investigation has not been closed or the relevant decision has not become definitive;
  • the definition of “document”, which indicates that the document has been formally transmitted to its recipient(s), circulated within the institutions or otherwise registered. The definition of “document” also applies to data contained in electronic systems, if they can be extracted in a readable form;
  • the exceptions to the Regulation, which include documents that concern environmental protection, relate to court, arbitration and dispute settlement proceedings, and aim at protecting selection procedures for staff and contracting parties. The disclosure of non-professional related personal data of civil servants and interest representatives is regulated by EC legislation on processing of personal data (Regulation (EC) No 45/2001);
  • the consultations with third parties, which provide for the obligation to consult the authorities of the Member State from where the document originates, unless the document is part of a procedure leading to a legislative or non-legislative act of general application;
  • the applications for documents, which take into account the clarity with which the document is requested and thus identified. With regard to confirmatory applications, the time limit for handling these is extended from 15 to 30 working days. In case of even partial refusal, the applicant can bring proceedings against the institution before the Court of First Instance and/or complain to the European Ombudsman;
  • access to the document following the application, which cannot derogate from specific modalities laid down in EU or national law, in particular when access is subject to a payment fee;
  • the active dissemination of documents, which provides for direct access to documents that are part of a procedure leading to a legislative or non-legislative act of general application. Each institution is to define the other categories that are to be made directly accessible to the public.

Co-decision procedure (2008/0090/COD)

The direct effect of European law

The direct effect of European law

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about The direct effect of European law

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Institutional affairs > The decision-making process and the work of the institutions

The direct effect of European law

The direct effect of European law is, along with the principle of precedence, a fundamental principle of European law. It was enshrined by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). It enables individuals to immediately invoke European law before courts, independent of whether national law test exist.

The direct effect principle therefore ensures the application and effectiveness of European law in the Member States. However, the CJEU defined several conditions in order for a European legal act to be immediately applicable. In addition, the direct effect may only relate to relations between an individual and a Member State or be extended to relations between individuals.

Definition

The direct effect of European law has been enshrined by the Court of Justice in the judgement of Van Gend en Loos of 5 February 1963. In this judgement, the Court states that European law not only engenders obligations for Member States, but also rights for individuals. Individuals may therefore take advantage of these rights and directly invoke European acts before national and European courts. However, it is not necessary for the Member State to adopt the European act concerned into its internal legal system.

Horizontal and vertical direct effect

There are two aspects to direct effect: a vertical aspect and a horizontal aspect.

Vertical direct effect is of consequence in relations between individuals and the State. This means that individuals can invoke a European provision in relation to the State.

Horizontal direct effect is consequential in relations between individuals. This means that an individual can invoke a European provision in relation to another individual.

According to the type of act concerned, the Court of Justice has accepted either a full direct effect (i.e. a horizontal direct effect and a vertical direct effect) or a partial direct effect (confined to the vertical direct effect).

Direct effect and primary legislation

As far as primary legislation is concerned, i.e. the texts at the top of the European legal order, the Court of Justice established the principle of the direct effect in the Van Gend & Loos judgment. However, it laid down the condition that the obligations must be precise, clear and unconditional and that they do not call for additional measures, either national or European.

In the Becker judgment (Judgment of 19 January 1982), the Court of Justice rejected the direct effect where the States have a margin of discretion, however minimal, regarding the implementation of the provision in question (Judgment of 12 December 1990, Kaefer & Procacci).

Direct effect and secondary legislation

The principle of direct effect also relates to acts from secondary legislation, that is those adopted by institutions on the basis of the founding Treaties. However, the application of direct effect depends on the type of act:

  • the regulation: regulations always have direct effect. In effect, Article 288 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU specifies that regulations are directly applicable in the Member States. The Court of Justice clarifies in the judgement of Politi of 14 December 1971 that this is a complete direct effect;
  • the directive: the directive is an act addressed to Member States and must be transposed by them into their national laws. However, in certain cases the Court of Justice recognises the direct effect of directives in order to protect the rights of individuals. Therefore, the Court laid down in its case-law that a directive has direct effect when its provisions are unconditional and sufficiently clear and precise (Judgement of 4 December 1974, Van Duyn). However, it can only have direct vertical effect and it is only valid if the Member States have not transposed the directive by the deadline (Judgement of 5 April 1979, Ratti);
  • the decision: decisions may have direct effect when they refer to a Member State as the addressee. The Court of Justice therefore recognises only a direct vertical effect (Judgement 10 November 1972, Hansa Fleisch);
  • international agreements: in the Demirel Judgement of 30 September 1987, the Court of Justice recognised the direct effect of certain agreements in accordance with the same criteria identified in the Judgement Van Gend en Loos;
  • opinions and recommendations: opinions and recommendations do not have legal binding force. Consequently, they are not provided with direct effect.

Precedence of European law

Precedence of European law

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Precedence of European law

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Institutional affairs > The decision-making process and the work of the institutions

Precedence of European law

The precedence principle guarantees the superiority of European law over national laws. It is a fundamental principle of European law. As with the direct effect principle, it is not inscribed in the Treaties, but has been enshrined by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

Definition

The CJEU enshrined the precedence principle in the Costa versus Enel case of 15 July 1964. In this case, the Court declared that the laws issued by European institutions are to be integrated into the legal systems of Member States, who are obliged to comply with them. European law therefore has precedence over national laws. Therefore, if a national rule is contrary to a European provision, Member States’ authorities must apply the European provision. National law is neither rescinded nor repealed, but its binding force is suspended.

The Court later clarified that the precedence of European law is to be applied to all national acts, whether they were adopted before or after the European act in question.

With European law becoming superior to national law, the principle of precedence therefore ensures that citizens are uniformly protected by a European law assured across all EU territories.

Scope of the principle

The precedence of European law over national laws is absolute. Therefore, it applies to all European acts with a binding force, whether emanating from primary or secondary legislation.

In addition, all national acts are subject to this principle, irrespective of their nature: acts, regulations, decisions, ordinances, circulars, etc), irrespective of whether they are issued by the executive or legislative powers of a Member State. The judiciary is also subject to the precedence principle. Member State case-law should also respect EU case-law.

The Court of Justice has ruled that national constitutions should also be subject to the precedence principle. It is therefore a matter for national judges not to apply the provisions of a constitution which contradict European law.

Responsibility for ensuring compliance with the principle

As for the direct effect principle, the Court of Justice is responsible for ensuring the precedence principle is adhered to. Its rulings impose penalties on Member States who infringe it, on the basis of the various remedies provided for by the founding Treaties, notably proceedings for failure to fulfil an obligation.

It is also the task of national judges to ensure the precedence principle is adhered to. Should there be any doubt regarding the implementation of this principle, judges may make use of the reference for a preliminary ruling procedure. In its judgment of 19 June 1990 (Factortame), the Court of Justice indicated that national courts, as part of a preliminary ruling on the validity of a national law, must immediately suspend the application of this law until such time as the Court of Justice gives its recommended solution and the national court gives its ruling on the substance of the issue.

Proceedings for failure to fulfil an obligation

Proceedings for failure to fulfil an obligation

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Proceedings for failure to fulfil an obligation

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Institutional affairs > The decision-making process and the work of the institutions

Proceedings for failure to fulfil an obligation

Proceedings for failure to fulfil an obligation are legal proceedings brought before the Court of Justice of the European Union. These proceedings may be brought by the Commission or by a Member State against a Member State which has not complied with European Union (EU) law.

Proceedings for failure to fulfil an obligation are based on Articles 258 to 260 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.

Nature of the failure

The failure can stem from instruments (laws, decrees, administrative decisions, etc.) or be the result of facts (administrative practices, etc.).

It can be the consequence of positive behaviour (actions) or negative behaviour (abstentions, omissions). Thus, actions can, for instance, consist of the adoption of a text contrary to European law or the express refusal to repeal a national measure that is contrary to European law. Abstentions or omissions can, for example, consist of delays in transposing a directive or failure by Member States to notify national implementing measures to the Commission.

The act must be attributable to the Member State. For this reason, the concept of State is interpreted broadly by the Court of Justice in that it may mean all of the State bodies such as the government, the parliament, federated entities or sub-national bodies, etc.

Procedure

Proceedings may be brought either by the Commission, which is most often the case in practice, or by a Member State:

  • when the Commission initiates proceedings, it must first address a reasoned opinion to the Member State which has not complied with Union law. If, after a certain period, the Member State has still not rectified its failure to fulfil its obligation, the Commission may then bring proceedings against the Member State before the Court of Justice;
  • when a Member State initiates proceedings, it must first bring the matter before the Commission. The Commission then delivers a reasoned opinion after having heard the arguments of the Member States concerned. The plaintiff Member State may then bring the matter before the Court of Justice.

Once the matter has been referred, if the Court of Justice finds that there has been a failure to fulfil an obligation, it shall deliver its first judgment which includes the measures to be adopted by the Member State in order to rectify the situation. Subsequently, if the Commission considers that the Member State has not taken the necessary measures, it shall bring the matter before the Court of Justice a second time. If the Court confirms that the Member State has not complied with its first judgment, it may then impose a fine on it.

The Treaty of Lisbon introduces specific proceedings for cases where a Member State does not communicate the measures for transposing a directive to the Commission. In such a case, the Court may impose a pecuniary penalty on the Member State concerned from the date of the first judgment on the failure to fulfil an obligation.

Allocation of jurisdiction between the Court of Justice and the General Court

Only the Court of Justice is competent to hear proceedings for failure to fulfil an obligation brought by a Member State or by the European Commission.

This summary is for information only. It is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document, which remains the only binding legal text.

Proceedings for failure to act

Proceedings for failure to act

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Proceedings for failure to act

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Institutional affairs > The decision-making process and the work of the institutions

Proceedings for failure to act

Proceedings for failure to act are legal proceedings brought before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). They enable the Court to control the inaction of a European Union (EU) institution, body, office or agency.

Nature of the proceedings

Proceedings for failure to act may be brought against the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council, the Commission or the European Central Bank. They may also be brought against EU bodies, offices or agencies.

Moreover, failure to act is characterised by the failure to act by the body concerned where European law imposed an obligation to act. The failure to act is therefore illegal.

For example, proceedings for failure to act may be brought against an institution which has not adopted an act or taken a measure provided for by European law.

Plaintiffs

Article 265 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU provides for two categories of plaintiff.

The first category groups the Member States and the EU institutions together. These plaintiffs are termed ‘preferential’ in that they do not have to demonstrate any interest in taking action in order to be able to bring proceedings for failure to act.

The second category comprises individuals. Unlike preferential plaintiffs, individuals must have an interest in taking action in order to be able to bring proceedings before the Court of Justice. Article 265 of the TFEU specifies that individuals may bring proceedings for failure to act against an institution which has failed to address an act to them. In practice, the Court of Justice also accepts proceedings for failure to act in relation to an act which is not formally addressed to individuals but concerns them directly and individually.

Procedure

Before being able to bring proceedings for failure to act, the plaintiff must first call upon the Union institution, body, office or agency to act. If after two months, the entity concerned has not defined its position, the plaintiff has a further period of two months to introduce proceedings for failure to act before the Court of Justice.

If the Court of Justice finds in favour of the plaintiff, it limits itself to this finding. In other words, the Court of Justice cannot substitute itself for the institution concerned to remedy the failure to act. It is the responsibility of the institution to act within a reasonable period of time.

Division of jurisdiction between the Court of Justice and the General Court

The Court of Justice has jurisdiction in:

  • proceedings brought by Member States against the European Parliament or the Council;
  • proceedings brought by an institution against another institution.

The General Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine at first instance all other types of proceedings, and in particular, proceedings brought by individuals.

This fact sheet is not legally binding on the European Commission, it does not claim to be exhaustive and does not represent an official interpretation of the text of the Treaty.

The reference for a preliminary ruling

The reference for a preliminary ruling

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about The reference for a preliminary ruling

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Institutional affairs > The decision-making process and the work of the institutions

The reference for a preliminary ruling

The reference for preliminary ruling forms part of the procedures which may be exercised before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). This procedure is open to all Member States’ national judges. They may refer a case already underway to the Court in order to question it on the interpretation or validity of European law.

In contrast to other judicial procedures, the reference of a preliminary ruling is therefore not a recourse taken against a European or national act, but a question presented on the application of European law.

The reference for a preliminary ruling thus promotes active cooperation between the national courts and the Court of Justice and the uniform application of European law throughout the EU.

Nature of references for a preliminary ruling

Any national court to which a dispute in which the application of a rule of European law raises questions (original case) has been submitted can decide to refer to the Court of Justice to resolve these questions. Therefore, there are two types of reference for a preliminary ruling:

  • a reference for a ruling on the interpretation of the European instrument: the national judge requests the Court of Justice to clarify a point of interpretation of European law in order to be able to apply it correctly;
  • a reference for a preliminary ruling on the validity of the European instrument: the national judge requests the Court of Justice to check the validity of an act of European law.

The reference for a preliminary ruling is therefore a reference “from one judge to another“. Although a referral to the Court of Justice may be requested by one of the parties involved in the dispute, the decision to do so rests with the national court. In this respect, Article 267 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU specifies that national courts which act as a final resort, against whose decisions there is no judicial remedy, are obliged to exercise the reference for a preliminary ruling if one of the parties requests it. In contrast, national courts which are not a final resort are not obliged to exercise the reference for a preliminary ruling even if one of the parties requests it. In any case, all national courts must immediately refer a matter to the Court of Justice in cases of doubt regarding a European provision.

The Court of Justice therefore only gives a decision on the constituent elements of the reference for a preliminary ruling made to it. The national court therefore remains competent for the original case.

On principle, the Court of Justice must answer the question put to it. It cannot refuse to answer on the grounds that this response would be neither relevant nor timely as regards the original case. It can, however, refuse if the question does not fall within its sphere of competence.

Scope of preliminary rulings

The Court of Justice Decision has the force of res judicata. It is, furthermore, binding not only on the national court on whose initiative the reference for a preliminary ruling was made but also on all of the national courts of the Member States.

In the context of a reference for a preliminary ruling concerning validity, if the European instrument is declared invalid all of the instruments adopted based on it are also invalid. It then falls to the competent European institutions to adopt a new instrument to rectify the situation.

Related Acts

Recommendations to national courts and tribunals in relation to the initiation of preliminary ruling proceedings [Official Journal C 338 of 6.11.2012].

 

Action Plan for Better Regulation

Action Plan for Better Regulation

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Action Plan for Better Regulation

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Institutional affairs > The decision-making process and the work of the institutions

Action Plan for Better Regulation

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission of 5 June 2002, Action Plan “Simplifying and improving the regulatory environment” [COM(2002) 278 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

The purpose of this Communication is to improve the regulatory environment. Following consultations, the Commission noted the need for better regulation throughout the legislative process: from preparation of the proposal by the Commission to implementation by the Member States. This Action Plan focuses on the responsibilities of each party concerned during the legislative process. It aims to enable all the institutions and Member States to produce better laws.

Actions to be implemented by the Commission

First of all, the Commission intends to improve the quality of the legislative proposals through a number of actions, such as:

  • establishing minimum standards of consultation by the end of 2002: one of the standards envisaged by the Commission is a minimum duration of six weeks for consultations and the creation of a single access point showing the list of consultations in progress;
  • developing an instrument to assess the impact of major legislative and policy initiatives: the impact assessments will make it possible to decide whether or not legislation should be passed at Community level. They will make it easier to identify the most appropriate legislative or non-legislative instrument;
  • expanding the explanatory memoranda accompanying legislative proposals on the basis of five criteria: for each legislative proposal, the Commission will present the consultations held and results obtained, the impact assessments, the reasons for choosing the instrument and, lastly, the budgetary implications of the proposal;
  • including a review clause in legislative acts, or even a revision clause, in the Commission’s legislative proposals, which will make it possible to ensure that legislation is kept up to date and that legal certainty for users is preserved. These review clauses will be particularly beneficial in the fields subject to rapid technological change.

Secondly, the Commission undertakes to monitor the adoption and application of legislative acts more closely by:

  • giving the European Parliament and Council greater encouragement to come to an agreement quickly;
  • calling on the Council to vote by qualified majority wherever provision is made for this in order to accelerate the procedure;
  • making greater use of the opportunities to withdraw its proposals, particularly if a proposal is pending and has not been discussed for several years by the Council and the European Parliament. It will also withdraw its proposals if the amendments introduced by the European Parliament and/or the Council change the proposal disproportionately. Lastly, it stresses that proposals will be withdrawn under the process of negotiation and the political compromises achieved by the institutions;
  • following up infringements. It plans in particular to lay down criteria which will be used to establish priorities for examining possible breaches of Community law, for example the quality of transposition of the directives or the serious effects on Community interest. The Commission will also reinforce its checks on transposition.

Lastly, the Commission will ensure the general coordination and implementation of this Action Plan by setting up an internal network for “better lawmaking”. This network will involve all the Directorates-General and will be coordinated by the Secretariat-General. It will have the following mandate:

  • to monitor compliance with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality;
  • to coordinate the preparation of the annual assessment of the quality of legislation and of national reports;
  • to ensure that the Commission adopts a consistent position within the interinstitutional network and in its relations with the Member States.

Action proposed to the European Parliament and the Council

The Commission calls upon the Parliament and Council to commit to improving legislative quality, for example by concluding an inter-institutional agreement by the end of 2002. First of all, the Commission proposes that the institutions make more appropriate use of legislative instruments. This would be achieved by:

  • reverting to the original definitions of the directive and regulation laid down in the Treaty: regulations must be used only for action requiring uniform application in the Member States. As far as possible, the use of directives must be limited to the establishment of a general framework;
  • using certain alternatives to legislation, where appropriate, such as self-regulation, sectoral voluntary agreements or the open coordination method. The Commission will propose more frequent use of co-regulation to the legislator. This allows the parties concerned to adopt implementing measures in line with the objectives laid down by the legislator. The legislator can then judge whether the use of this instrument is appropriate;
  • the Commission’s undertaking to avoid making its legislative proposals unwieldy.

The European Parliament and the Council are asked to support the Commission in its plans to simplify and reduce the volume of Community legislation. The institutions should therefore draw up a simplification programme. The Commission suggests that the European Parliament and the Council create structures specifically responsible for legislative simplification. It would be a good idea to have an inter-institutional agreement on the subject. The European Parliament and the Council are called upon to support the codification programme by adopting codification proposals under accelerated procedures.

The European Union institutions are responsible for the quality of the legislation adopted. Some amendments can alter the quality of the act because they have been drafted complicatedly or they are too precise or not precise enough. The introduction of a period during which the act can be reread by lawyer-linguists would make it possible to improve quality and consistency before final adoption. The Commission proposes that the European Parliament and the Council carry out impact assessments of the substantial amendments which they introduce at first reading.

Action concerning the Member States

The Member States should also be committed to improving and simplifying the regulatory environment. The Commission therefore recommends that the Member States:

  • transpose Community acts into national legislation faithfully and within the set deadlines;
  • involve the national, regional and local authorities responsible for transposing and applying Community acts as early as possible in the legislative process;
  • appoint a correspondent responsible for coordinating the transposition and application of Community acts.

The Commission proposes that the Member States take specific action, including:

  • electronic notification of national transposing measures, using a standard form. The Member States should at the same time submit concordance tables which can be used to compare the transposing measures with the original Community act;
  • consultations and impact assessments of any supplementary provisions added to legislative acts at the time of transposition.

Developing a common legislative culture within the Union

In order to successfully implement this Action Plan, the objective of improving regulations must be applied to the entire legislative cycle, from the drafting of the proposal to its adoption by the legislator to its application by the Member States. The development of a common legislative culture will ultimately benefit European citizens. The Commission therefore proposes the following actions:

  • the creation of a legislative network on two levels: on the one hand, between the Community institutions and, on the other, between the institutions and the Member States. The Commission proposes that the Community institutions set up a permanent mechanism, the “Better regulation” internal network, with the aim of implementing the Action Plan. In order to improve cooperation between the Community institutions and the Member States, the Commission intends to appoint “transposition and application” correspondents;
  • the annual assessment of the quality of legislation: the Commission will assess the implementation of the Action Plan on a yearly basis and will draw up national reports on a particular group of countries in turn;
  • public access to legislation must be developed, in particular by expanding public access to Eur-Lex, developing Internet forums and mobilising the traditional info-centres and contact points for Community information.

Related Acts

Communication from the Commission of 6 June 2002 – “European Governance: better lawmaking” [COM(2002) 0275 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

This Communication complements the Action Plan “Simplifying and improving the regulatory environment”. It aims to improve implementation by the EU through a number of initiatives, including:

  • clarification of executive responsibilities: the Commission proposes clarifying the rules governing comitology, in particular through the precise definition of each institution’s remit. The European Parliament should be involved in comitology, particularly for the implementation of decisions under the codecision procedure;
  • a framework for the creation of European agencies: the Commission will submit to the Parliament and the Council the terms of an interinstitutional agreement on the subject;
  • consideration of the regional, urban and local contexts: regional and local authorities and the Member States will have the opportunity to conclude pilot contracts with the Commission with a view to achieving the Community’s sustainable development objectives;
  • a new approach to vetting the application of the law: the Commission will pay closer attention to delays in the implementation of national application measures.

Lastly, this Communication reaffirms the importance of the Community method as a basis for building the European Union. The reforms of governance, “a quiet revolution in terms of the way we act”, require the institutions to consolidate and clarify the sharing of their powers.

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 11 February 2003 – “Updating and simplifying the Community acquis” [COM(2003) 71 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

This Communication follows on from the Action Plan “Simplifying and improving the regulatory environment”. Since the Community was established, the Community acquis has never undergone a full examination. The Commission proposes a Framework for Action aimed at simplifying the Community acquis and sets the following six objectives:

  • simplify the acquis;
  • consolidation of the acquis must be completed and kept rigorously up to date;
  • codification;
  • reviewing the organisation and presentation of the acquis;
  • ensure transparency and effective monitoring at political and technical level;
  • establish an effective implementation strategy.

This fact sheet is not legally binding on the European Commission, it does not claim to be exhaustive and does not represent an official interpretation of the text of the Treaty.

White Paper on governance

White Paper on governance

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about White Paper on governance

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Institutional affairs > The decision-making process and the work of the institutions

White Paper on governance

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission of 25 July 2001 “European governance – A white paper” [COM(2001) 428 final – Official Journal C 287 of 12.10.2001].

Summary

It is necessary to reform European governance in order to bring citizens closer to the European institutions.

Five principles combine to form the basis of good governance:

  • openness: the European institutions should attach more importance to transparency and communication in their decision-making;
  • participation: citizens must be more systematically involved in the drafting and implementation of policies;
  • accountability: the role of each party in the decision-making process needs to be clarified. Each actor involved should then assume responsibility for the role given to them;
  • effectiveness: decisions need to be taken at the appropriate level and time, and deliver what is needed;
  • coherence: the EU conducts extremely diverse policies which need to be pursued coherently.

The proposals in this White Paper do not necessarily require new treaties. This is first and foremost a question of political will, to which all the institutions and Member States need to commit.

To reform governance of the European Union, the Commission proposes four major changes.

BETTER INVOLVEMENT

Policies should no longer be decided at the top. The legitimacy of the EU now lies with the participation of its citizens.

More openness in the way the Union works

Participation depends on people being able to take part in public debate. For this to happen, the general public needs to be more actively informed about European issues. The Commission will call on national and local networks and authorities in order to present information which is adapted to the concerns of European citizens. The Europa website will form an interactive platform for dialogue and discussion. The Commission also intends to continue developing Eur-lex. The Council and the European Parliament need to make their information more accessible throughout the codecision procedure, particularly at the conciliation phase. Finally, the Member States should promote public debate on European affairs.

Reaching out to citizens through regional and local democracy

In order to build a better partnership across the various levels, the Commission proposes a number of initiatives, including:

  • participation by local-government associations in policy development: the Commission notes that Community decisions fail to take sufficient account of local and regional knowledge. It therefore proposes to step up cooperation between local-government associations and the Committee of the Regions. It also suggests that the latter conduct a more systematic examination of the local and regional impact of certain directives. Finally, the Member States should improve the involvement of local actors in EU policy-making;
  • greater flexibility in the implementation of certain Community policies with a strong territorial impact: the Commission proposes that contracts be concluded between the Member States, regions, local authorities and the Commission. These contracts would allow the local authorities to implement Community legislation, whilst taking the wide diversity of local conditions into account;
  • overall policy coherence: European policies work too often by adopting a sectoral approach. These should form part of a coherent whole and address their territorial impact in order to achieve more sustainable and balanced territorial development within the Union. The Commission intends to develop indicators to identify where coherence is needed.

Involving civil society

The Commission considers that civil society plays an important role in the development of Community policies. It will continue to encourage the activities of non-governmental organisations, the social partners and civil society in general. The Commission points out that the organisations representing civil society should themselves apply the principles of good governance as a show of their responsibility and openness. By the end of 2001, it will have set up an online database of civil society organisations.

As a final point, the Economic and Social Committee should give its opinions before rather than after proposals have been transmitted to the legislature, in order to contribute more towards shaping policies.

More effective and transparent consultation at the heart of EU policy-shaping

The institutions and the Member States should step up their efforts to consult better on EU policies. The European Parliament should play a prominent role, given its task of representing citizens. It could, for example, make more frequent use of public hearings. More encouragement could also be given to the involvement of national parliaments.

The Commission intends to clarify how consultations are run. It will publish a review of existing consultative fora for each sector. It also aims to provide a framework for consultation by drawing up a code of conduct that sets minimum standards. These standards should improve the representativeness of civil society organisations and structure their debate with the Commission. In some policy sectors, where consultative practices are already well established, the Commission seeks to develop more extensive partnership arrangements. It then invites the other Institutions to apply a similar approach to their own activities.

Connecting with networks

Networks link businesses, communities, research centres, and regional and local authorities at a European or even global level. These networks can enhance the success of Community policies. The Commission will work more closely together with them to enable them to contribute to decision shaping and policy execution. It will examine how transnational cooperation between regional or local actors could be better supported.

BETTER REGULATION

This White Paper aims to make Community decisions more effective in order to win back the support and confidence of European citizens.

Restoring confidence in expert advice

The recent food crises and the ethical issues raised by the advent of bio-technologies have highlighted the need to inform people more about what is known and where uncertainty persists on a scientific level. The system of expert committees used by the Union is opaque and public confidence in expert advice needs to be restored. From June 2002 onwards, the Commission will publish guidelines on how to make its use of expert advice more responsible, pluralistic and transparent. The Commission also suggests the networking of expertise, which too often is organised at national level.

Better and faster regulation – combining policy instruments for better results

The European Commission has identified seven factors for improving regulation:

  • proposals must be prepared on the basis of an analysis to determine whether action at EU level is needed or not;
  • the choice between legislation and less binding tools should be made carefully;
  • it is necessary to determine the most appropriate type of legislative tool. Regulations should be used when there is a need for uniform application across the Union. Framework directives are appropriate when greater flexibility in implementation is desirable. They offer the advantage of being agreed quickly by Council and the European Parliament. Finally, the Commission suggests making greater use of “primary” legislation limited to essential elements, leaving the implementing authority to fill in the technical detail;
  • the Commission wishes to promote co-regulation, when this provides value added and serves the general interest: co-regulation allows the parties involved to define implementing measures in accordance with the objectives defined by the legislator;
  • Community action should be complemented or reinforced in certain areas through the use of the open method of coordination. This method is a way of encouraging cooperation, the exchange of best practice, and adding value at a European level where there is little scope for legislative solutions;
  • the Commission intends to be more systematic in evaluating the actions carried out and drawing the necessary conclusions;
  • the Commission promises to withdraw its proposals if these are too burdensome or complicated, following inter-institutional bargaining. It also suggests that the Council and the European Parliament speed up the legislative process, where possible. To do so, the Council should vote whenever a qualified majority is possible, rather than seek unanimity at all costs. The Council and the European Parliament should, finally, attempt to reach agreement at the first reading.

Simplifying Community law

The Commission proposes the launch of an ambitious programme to simplify Community legislation. The Member States should, however, refrain from adding disproportionate requirements when transposing Community directives.

Better application of EU rules through regulatory agencies

The Commission wishes to create new independent regulatory agencies with decision-making power. This decision-making power will be strictly defined: the agencies will not be able to arbitrate between public interests, or take measures of general scope. They will be subject to a Community system of control.

Better application at national level

The Member States need to step up their efforts to improve the quality of transposing and enforcing Community law. To do so, the Commission proposes that they:

  • set up twinning arrangements between national administrations, in order to exchange best practice in this field;
  • create coordination units responsible for enforcing Community law within the central government of each Member State;
  • make national courts and lawyers more familiar with Community law;
  • create similar arrangements in the Member States to the EU Ombudsman and the Petitions’ Committee of the European Parliament, in order to improve the capacity for dispute settlement.

The Commission will vigorously pursue infringements of Community law. To do so, it will draw up a list of priorities for the investigation of possible breaches. However, a lengthy judicial procedure against a Member State is neither the most practical solution nor the fastest. The Commission will therefore continue to pursue active dialogue with the Member States in order to defuse disputes at the earliest possible stage.

CONTRIBUTION TO GLOBAL GOVERNANCE

EU citizens want the EU to be powerful on the international stage. The Commission emphasises that the Union’s first step must be to reform governance successfully at home in order to enhance the case for change at an international level. The European Union should then apply the principles of good governance to its global responsibility by, for example, being more accessible to governmental and non-governmental stakeholders.

The European Union should strive to improve the effectiveness and legitimacy of global rule-making, working to modernise and reform international institutions. The Commission will promote the use of new tools at global level as a complement to “hard” international law.

The Commission will, finally, propose a review of the Union’s international representation so that it speaks with a single voice.

REDEFINING THE POLITICAL STRATEGY OF THE INSTITUTIONS

The refocusing of policy, i.e. the clear identification of an overall strategic policy for the Union, is necessary so that people have a better understanding of the EU’s political project. This is no easy task, as the sectoral thinking behind EU policies is not conducive to the coherence of Community action.

Refocused EU policies

Refocusing policies means that the Union should identify more clearly its long-term objectives. The Commission already makes a effort in the field of strategic planning through a number of initiatives such as:

  • the Commission’s Annual Policy Strategy: published at the start of each year, this identifies strategic priorities with a 2 to 3 year time span;
  • the Commission President’s State of the Union address: each year the Commission President surveys the progress made on the Commission’s strategic priorities and indicates the challenges which lie ahead;
  • the annual report on the implementation of the Amsterdam Protocol on Subsidiarity and Proportionality which, from 2002 onwards, will be oriented towards the EU’s main objectives.

The European Council should play a more important role in shaping the direction of the Union.

Refocused institutions

Each institution should refocus on its key functions: the Commission initiates and executes policy; the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament adopt legislation and budgets; the European Council sets political guidance. This refocusing of the institutions will make it possible to reinvigorate the Community method. Nevertheless, this Community method needs to be updated by, for example, clarifying the roles of each party.

The Council of Ministers should arbitrate more between sectoral interests. It should develop its capacity to coordinate all aspects of EU policy both in the Council and at home.

The European Parliament and all the national parliaments should stimulate a public debate on the future of Europe and its policies. The European Parliament should focus its budget control on the attainment of political objectives.

The Commission concludes by suggesting that it be made clearer who is responsible for policy execution. The conditions under which the Commission adopts executive measures should be reviewed. In particular, it wants the European Parliament to be involved in monitoring implementation. It feels that Article 202 of the Treaty has become outdated because of the development of the codecision procedure which puts Council and the European Parliament on an equal footing. Finally, the Commission questions the need to maintain the regulatory and management committees.

Background

The White Paper on Governance sets down markers for the debate on the future of Europe. It has been supplemented by an extensive process of institutional reform initiated at the European Council in Laeken and concluded with the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon .

Related Acts

Communication from the Commission of 6 June 2002 – European Governance: Better lawmaking [COM(2002) 275 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

This communication supplements the “Simplifying and improving the regulatory environment” action plan. Its main aim is to shift the focus of the institutions and raise the quality of implementation by the Union through a number of initiatives, including:

  • clarifying executive responsibilities: the rules governing comitology need to be clarified, chiefly through the clear definition of the roles of each institution. The European Parliament has a role to play in comitology, particularly in the areas covered by codecision;
  • supervising the creation of European agencies: the Commission will propose an interinstitutional agreement to Parliament and the Council on this matter;
  • taking account of the regional, urban and local contexts: the regional and local authorities and Member States will have the chance to conclude pilot contracts with the Commission with a view to achieving the Community’s sustainable development objectives;
  • adopting a new approach to vetting application of the law: the Commission will pay more attention to the delays in implementing national application measures.

This communication concludes by reaffirming the importance of the Community method as the very basis of the European Union. A “quiet revolution in terms of the way we act”, the governance reforms call for efforts by the institutions to consolidate and clarify the sharing of competences.

Communication from the Commission of 11 December 2002 on the collection and use of expertise by the Commission: principles and guidelines – “Improving the knowledge base for better policies” [COM(2002) 713 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

In the White Paper on governance, the Commission stated that it would publish guidelines on the use of expert advice by the Commission. This communication fulfils this commitment. The Commission reaffirms the three principles on which expert advice should be based: quality, openness and effectiveness. The Commission should exploit the most appropriate expertise to construct better policies. The Commission also emphasises its determination to restore the confidence of citizens in the use of expertise, by giving them access to expert advice and meetings.

Communication from the Commission of 11 December 2002 – The operating framework for the European Regulatory Agencies [COM(2002) 718 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

In this communication, the Commission specifies the tasks, procedures for setting up, and composition of the regulatory agencies. These agencies are subject to the supervision of the Commission, the European Ombudsman, the European Parliament, the Council, the Court of Auditors and the Court of Justice of the European Communities.

Communication from the Commission of 11 December 2002 – A framework for target-based tripartite contracts and agreements between the Community, the Member States and regional and local authorities [COM(2002) 709 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

This communication aims to clarify the notion of tripartite contracts mentioned in the White Paper on governance. It distinguishes target-based tripartite contracts, which ensue from the application of binding Community law, from target-based tripartite agreements, which describe agreements concluded between the Commission, a Member State and regional and local authorities outside a binding legal act. The Commission sets out the arrangements for concluding this type of agreement, and concludes by presenting a model contract or agreement.

Communication from the Commission of 11 December 2002 on the better monitoring of the application of Community law [COM(2002) 725 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

The Commission intends to improve monitoring of the application of Community law, by first of all emphasising the prevention of infringements. To do so, the Commission will develop cooperation with the Member States, chiefly by helping them with the transposition of directives. The Commission will also continue to carry out its role as guardian of the Treaties by taking action against infringements. This will be done on the basis of priority criteria relating to the seriousness of breaches. For example, the failure to transpose directives will be considered as a serious infringement and infringement proceedings will be launched immediately in this case.

Commission communication to the European Parliament and the European Ombudsman of 20 March 2002 on relations with the complainant in respect of infringements of community law [COM(2002) 141 final – Official Journal C 244 of 10 October 2002].

In this communication, the Commission sets out administrative measures for the benefit of the complainant in the context of infringement proceedings, such as the methods of submitting a complaint, the protection of personal data, or the time limit for investigating complaints.

Proposal for a Council Decision of 11 December 2002 amending Decision 1999/468/EC laying down the procedures for the exercise of implementing powers conferred on the Commission [COM(2002) 719 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

In this communication, the Commission presents the Council decision on comitology. The Council agrees to include the European Parliament in supervising implementation for matters subject to codecision. The regulatory procedure will be applied when the executive measures are of general scope concerning the substance of the matter in question. The advisory procedure will be appropriate when the executive measures have an individual scope or concern the procedural arrangements for implementation.

This fact sheet is not legally binding on the European Commission, it does not claim to be exhaustive and does not represent an official interpretation of the text of the Treaty.

Public access to documents held by the Institutions

Public access to documents held by the Institutions

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Public access to documents held by the Institutions

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Institutional affairs > The decision-making process and the work of the institutions

Public access to documents held by the Institutions

This Green Paper launches a public consultation on access to documents held by the Institutions. The Commission takes stock of the implementation of the legislation on this subject. It proposes that the current rules should be revised to include a more active dissemination policy for documents. They should incorporate developments in the area of the environment into the regime for obtaining access to documents and strike a fair balance between the rights of the public and the protection of public and private interests.

Document or Iniciative

Commission Green Paper of 18 April 2007, “Public Access to Documents held by Institutions of the European Community – A review”, [COM(2007) 185 final – Not published in the Official Journal]

Summary

This Green Paper is intended to amend the Regulation on public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents (Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001). This Regulation has made available to the public a considerable number of previously unpublished documents. However, judgments from the Court of First Instance, complaints settled by the European Ombudsman, and other legal developments have made it necessary to review this Regulation.

The Commission launched a broad consultation on this subject which ran from mid-April to mid-July 2007. It will publish a report on the results of the consultation in September 2007 and submit its proposals for amending the Regulation on access to documents held by the Institutions in October of the same year.

In this Green Paper, the Commission first takes stock of the rules on access to the documents. It then suggests improvements to these rules and asks participants in the consultation to evaluate its proposals.

Taking stock of the rules on public access to documents

Experience confirms that the Regulation’s functioning has been more than satisfactory, as demonstrated by the fact that the Commission grants two out of three requests for access. There has been a steady increase in the number of initial access requests submitted to it, while the number of confirmatory requests (i.e. applications asking the Commission to reconsider a refusal to grant access) remains stable. Appeals have been submitted to the Court of Justice, as have complaints to the European Ombudsman, but these account for only a very small proportion of the total number of requests handled.

Although the implementation is satisfactory, it is nonetheless necessary to re-examine the Regulation in order to clarify certain provisions, to incorporate the case-law of the Court of First Instance in this area, and lastly, to take account of the latest developments regarding access and transparency.

Firstly, certain points need to be clarified. For example, the right of access to documents is sometimes in opposition to the right to protection of personal data. For this reason, the relationship between public access and a privileged right of access to relevant documents which cannot be disclosed to the public must be clarified. Secondly, improvements could be made to the dissemination of information that can be made accessible to the public, for example, with regard to the scope of the registers, the number of documents directly accessible to the public and the user-friendliness of the electronic information systems.

Furthermore, the Commission would like to point out that the Court of First Instance has already clarified many of the Regulation’s provisions, concerning its general characteristics, procedural issues or exceptions to access to documents. It would be wise for the Commission to include this case-law in new Community legislation.

Finally, other developments make it necessary to re-examine the regulation, such as:

  • The application of the Århus Convention to Community Institutions and bodies (Regulation (EC) No 1367/2006): this agreement applies to environmental information. It guarantees the public the right of access to environmental information held by the Community Institutions and bodies. These must also make environmental information available to the public in easily accessible electronic databases. The Commission points out that certain provisions of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 and Regulation (EC) No 1367/2006 partly overlap, such as their scope and their beneficiaries. Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 lays down a general regime for access to documents while Regulation (EC) No 1367/2006 concerns only access to environmental information . Similarly, Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 applies only to the Parliament, the Council, the Commission and the Community agencies, while Regulation (EC) No 1367/2006 applies to all of the Institutions and Community bodies. Lastly, certain exceptions to the right of access laid down in the two Regulations do not completely correspond. Although the two regimes are largely convergent, some differences could lead to differing interpretations and make it necessary to re-examine the Regulation;
  • The transparency of Council meetings: the Council recently amended its rules of procedure in order to make its decisions more transparent. Its public deliberations and debates are now published on the Internet in all the official EU languages, which goes beyond the scope of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001.

Proposed improvements to rules on access to documents

In light of this, the Commission has concluded that the current rules need to be amended to:

  • improve direct access to documents;
  • better inform the public on the activities of the European Institutions;
  • clarify the legal framework;
  • strike the right balance between the public’s right to know and the protection of legitimate public and private interests.

In order to fulfil these objectives, the Commission is launching a consultation on various proposed measures. It suggests, for example, improving the rules on access to documents by adopting a more active dissemination policy, by integrating the rules on access to environmental information into the general system of access to documents, and, lastly, by clarifying the provisions of the Regulation which are likely to create conflicts of interest.

The Commission proposes making the legislative process of the EU Institutions more transparent and more easily accessible to the general public. To achieve this, it suggests clarifying the concept of “legislative documents”, which should in principle be directly accessible in full to the public. The stage of the procedure at which they should be published should also be specified and they should be made easier to access.

Subsequently, it asks participants in the consultation to evaluate several proposals, including:

  • More systematic dissemination to the public of documents held by the Institutions. The Institutions already publish large amounts of information on their web sites such as EUR-Lex, Prelex, the European Parliament ‘s Legislative Observatory, and the Parliament’s, Commission’s and Council’s document registers, and the Register on comitology. However, the Commission queries whether the information provided through document registers and on the websites of the Institutions are sufficiently comprehensive and easy to access. It also wonders whether active dissemination of information should perhaps focus on certain specific fields.
  • Integrating the rules on access to environmental information into the general system of access to documents. As mentioned above, Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 and the rules on access to environmental information diverge on several points and may give rise to different interpretations. The Commission therefore proposes to amend Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 to incorporate the rules on access to environmental information. Such an amendment would maintain a single regime for access to documents held by the Parliament, the Council and the Commission, providing greater consistency and legal clarity for citizens. In order to put into place a single regime, the system of exceptions to the right of access would then have to be revised, for example, by adding exceptions intended to protect the environment.

And lastly, the Commission presents concrete solutions intended to strike the right balance between certain interests which sometimes come into conflict, such as:

  • Public access and the protection of personal data: In order to balance these two sometimes contradictory rights, the Commission proposes that, in the new Regulation, the Institutions define a series of criteria for the disclosure of personal data. These criteria would be based on two principles. Firstly, the disclosure of the data must be justified in the public interest. Secondly, it must not affect the person’s privacy or integrity;
  • Public access and commercial or economic interests: There are specific rules on access to information obtained in the framework of investigations on state aid, anti-trust, merger, trade defence or anti-fraud cases, as well as in public procurement and grant award procedures. The Commission is of the opinion that the specific rules and the Regulation need to be made consistent. It therefore proposes that the new Regulation provide that no access can be granted to documents containing information known to a limited number of persons, the disclosure of which is liable to cause serious harm to legitimate interests of the person who has provided it or to third parties.
  • Public access and good administration: Certain requests for documents entail a heavy workload. In order to reconcile transparency with the principle of good administration, the Commission proposes that three parameters be taken into account: the amount of documentation requested, the definition of documents held by the Institutions, and lastly, the effect of the passing of time on the application of the exceptions on access to documents. The Commission therefore suggests that specific provisions should be laid down for handling requests which are clearly excessive or improper, in particular with regard to time frames. In the case of particularly voluminous or complex requests, the Institutions may only extend the time limit for a reply by 15 working days. Nor, on this basis, can they reject requests which are clearly intended to block a service’s normal operations. The Commission also suggests that the concept of a “document held by the Institutions” be clarified and should cover information held in electronic databases that can be extracted using the existing search tools. Lastly, the Commission proposes that the events before and after which exceptions would or would not apply be specified.

This fact sheet is not legally binding on the European Commission, it does not claim to be exhaustive and does not represent an official interpretation of the text of the Treaty.

 

Interinstitutional Agreement on better law-making

Interinstitutional Agreement on better law-making

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Interinstitutional Agreement on better law-making

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Institutional affairs > The decision-making process and the work of the institutions

Interinstitutional Agreement on better law-making

Document or Iniciative

Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-Making.

Summary

This Interinstitutional Agreement concerns the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union (EU) and the Commission. This Agreement establishes the general principles and arrangements for cooperation between the institutions, particularly during the legislative process. The Agreement aims to optimise the drafting and implementation of Union law.

Improving interinstitutional cooperation and transparency

The three institutions have agreed first of all on better coordination of the legislative process. This means that they will inform each other in good time of their plans and their work, for example by means of their annual legislative timetables or by synchronising the handling of common dossiers by the preparatory bodies in each institution.

The three institutions undertake to improve transparency and the accessibility of information for the public, for example by more broadcasting of public debates, through the systematic use of new communication technologies, by giving the public greater access to Eur-Lex and lastly by holding joint press conferences once they have reached agreement during the ordinary legislative procedure.

For each proposal the Commission will explain and justify to the European Parliament and to the Council its choice of legislative instrument and the legal basis. It will ensure that the measure proposed is simple and necessary.

Promoting co-regulation and self-regulation

The EU legislates only where it is necessary. It is sometimes useful to resort to alternative methods of regulation, such as co-regulation or self-regulation.

Co-regulation is a mechanism whereby attaining the objectives laid down in a legislative act is entrusted to parties which are recognised in the field (economic operators, social partners, non-governmental organisations, etc.). The basic legislative act therefore defines the framework and extent of the co-regulation. The parties concerned are then able to conclude voluntary agreements between themselves in order to achieve the objectives of the legislative act.

Self-regulation means the possibility for economic operators, the two sides of industry, non-governmental organisations or associations to adopt amongst themselves and for themselves common guidelines at European level. These guidelines may, for example, take the form of a code of conduct or a sectoral agreement. They do not generally imply that the European institutions have adopted any particular stance. However, the latter reserve the right to adopt a legislative act when it concerns an area for which the EU has competence.

Improving the quality of legislation

The three institutions have undertaken to produce legislation that is clear, simple and effective. The Commission is asked to conduct pre-legislative consultations and to make public the results of those consultations. It will continue to carry out impact assessments for major items of draft legislation, in order to evaluate their social, economic and environmental consequences. If the European Parliament or the Council makes a substantial amendment, an assessment of the impact of that amendment is desirable. In order to improve the consistency of texts, legal verification needs to be carried out before an act is finally adopted.

Improving the transposition and application of Union law

In order to encourage Member States to transpose Union law properly within the prescribed period, Directives must contain a binding time limit of not more than two years for the transposition of their provisions into national law. If a Member State fails to do this, the Commission can launch an infringement procedure. It will draw up annual reports on the transposition of Directives in the various Member States.

Simplifying legislation

Legislation can be simplified in various ways: by repealing acts that are no longer applied or through the codification or recasting of acts. Codification (or consolidation) is a procedure that consists of repealing the acts concerned and replacing them with a single act containing the unchanged substance of those acts. Recasting consists of the adoption of a new legal act incorporating in a single text both the substantive amendments it makes to an earlier act and the unchanged provisions of that act. The new legal act replaces and repeals the earlier act.

References

Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Interinstitutional Agreement

16.12.2003

OJ C 321 of 31.12.2003

Related Acts

Interinstitutional Agreement of 22 December 1998 on common guidelines for the quality of drafting of Community legislation [OJ C 73 of 17.3.1999].
This agreement lays down guidelines for the quality of the drafting of Community legislation. For example, all acts are drawn up in accordance with a standard structure (title, preamble, enacting terms, annexes). The content of acts must be drafted in a concise and homogenous manner.

Interinstitutional Agreement of 20 December 1994 on an accelerated working method for official codification of legislative texts [OJ C 102 of 4.4.1996].
This interinstitutional agreement points out that codification does not involve any substantive amendment of the acts concerned. Proposals for codification from the Commission are to be examined by the European Parliament and the Council by means of an accelerated procedure.

Interinstitutional Agreement of 28 November 2001 on a more structured use of the recasting technique for legal acts [OJ C 77 of 28.3.2002].
This interinstitutional agreement lays down the rules for recasting, which must be justified on grounds explicitly set out in the explanatory memorandum. Precise indications must be given as to which provisions of the previous act remain unchanged.

This summary is for information only. It is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document, which remains the only binding legal text.