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EU Legislative programming

Every year in September, the President of the Commission in his State of the Union speech to the European Parliament presents priorities for the year ahead, which should become part of the European Commission’s Work Programme (CWP) for this period. The European Parliament has influence over the priorities and can request modifications to the legislative initiatives in the Parliament’s annual resolution on the Commission Work Programme. The CWP explains how the European Commission President’s political guidelines will be implemented in the coming year. The CWP sets annual priorities and outlines legislative initiatives to be submitted in relevant policy areas by the Commission. After the State of the Union Speech, the European Parliament continues dialogue with Commissioners of relevant policy areas in order to ensure that Parliament’s priorities are duly considered before the Work Programme is adopted by the European Commission. The adopted Programme is presented to the European Parliament during the plenary session in October.

© S.John / Fotolia

© S.John / Fotolia

Preparation for the new Work Programme starts during the first part of the year through dialogue between the European Commission and the European Parliament based on the Inter-institutional Framework Agreement between the Parliament and the Commission. The Agreement ensures that Parliament participates throughout all stages of the process until adoption of the annual Work Programme. The involvement of the Parliament in the process also presents a possibility to provide critical opinion on the execution of the Programme already in force.

This keysource addresses the role of the European Parliament in the EU’s legislative programming cycle, including its rights to initiate legislation within the institutional triangle.

See also Library Briefing on the Parliament’s legislative initiative by Eva-Maria Poptcheva, October 2013


The article and the report below provide an overview of policy making and decision making dynamics in the context of legislative programming and legislative role of the European Parliament. Moreover, they describe Parliament’s legislative role within the institutional triangle, namely Council, Commission and Parliament.

Bending the rules: Arrangements for sharing technical and political information between the EU institutions / Gijs Jan Brandsma, European Integration online Papers (EIoP), 2013, 22 p.

“The article analyses balance of power between three key institutions of the European Union – the European Commission, the Council and the Parliament. The decision-making process and the information sharing arrangements between the EU institutions. The overview of Treaty provisions specifying general principles of information sharing, secondary legislation and inter-institutional agreements. The instruments available to the institutions to act strategically on the basis of information acquired from other institutions.”

Mid-term Evaluation of the 2009-14 European Parliament: Legislative activity and decision-making dynamics / VoteWatch Europe , In: Centre for European Policy Studies, 2012, 15 p.

“This special report analyses legislative activity in the European Union and coalition formation in the European Parliament (EP) during the first half of the 7th legislative term, 2009-14.”

EU Legislative programming cycle

Legislative powers of The European Parliament: Law-making procedures in detail / European Parliament website
“The Commission has the legislative initiative. However, under the Treaty of Maastricht enhanced by the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament has a right of legislative initiative that allows it to ask the Commission to submit a proposal.”

Overview over Parliament’s role in the legislative planning and initiation:

1) Annual and multiannual programming

2) Initiative under Art. 225 TFEU

  • European Parliament’s role regarding the Commission’s Work Programme and the EU legislative programming cycle

Legislative programming: Timetable for the Commission Work Programme / European Parliament intranet

It describes the EP’s involvement at different stages of the Legislative programming cycle and the timetable until adoption of the Commission Work Programme.

Each year the European Parliament adopts a resolution on the Commission Work Programme year ahead, where it outlines its position and priorities including in particular requests based on legislative initiative reports. In addition, Parliament raises concerns and expresses critical opinion about the execution of the Work Programme in force.

Recent resolutions:

European Parliament resolution of 4 July 2013 on the European Parliament’s priorities for the Commission Work Programme 2014 (2013/2679(RSP)) / Legislative Observatory

European Parliament legislative resolution of 11 September 2012 on the Commission Work Programme for 2013 (2012/2688(RSP)) / Legislative Observatory

European Parliament resolution of 6 July 2011 on the Commission Work Programme 2012 / Legislative Observatory 

European Parliament resolution of 15 December 2010 on the Communication from the Commission on the Commission Work Programme 2011 / Legislative Observatory

The documents below provide key references on the Procedure of the EU legislative programming cycle:

Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the European Commission / ANNEXE XIV Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament 

Consolidated versions of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union , JO 2012/C 326/01, 26/10/2012

Articles 225, 289, 294 and 295

Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament / European Parliament website

Rules 105, 106 and 127

  • European Commission’s Work Programme and the EU legislative programming cycle

The annual Work Programme is closely related with the multiannual legislative programming, where the Commission’s priorities are set out for a five-years period in the EC President’s political guidelines. Every year in September, the President of the Commission in his State of the Union speech to the European Parliament presents priorities for the next year.

Latest speeches:

The President’s State of the European Union speech 2013 / European Commission website

The President’s State of the European Union speech 2012 / European Commission website

The President’s State of the European Union speech 2011 / European Commission website

In October, the European Commission adopts its Work Programme and presents it to the European Parliament during the plenary session.

Work programmes of last years:

The Annual Work Programme 2014  / European Commission website

The Annual Work Programme 2013  / European Commission website

The Annual Work Programme 2012  / European Commission website

The sources below provide detailed information and documents on the Work Programme, legislative initiatives and programming cycle.

Commission Work Programme / European Commission website

European Commission at work / European Commission website

Key documents on EC legislative initiatives / European Commission website

The strategic planning and programming cycle / European Commission website

Furthermore, directory listing for shared interinstitutional activities – follow-up by the European Commission to the European Parliament non legislative resolutions contains notes to the files on the European Commission’s follow-up to Parliament’s non-legislative resolutions and rolling tables on follow-up to Commission’s commitments to take specific actions. The Commission’ feedback is available in the Legislative Observatory  procedural files on INI procedures.


The Power of Initiative of the European Commission: A Progressive Erosion? / Paolo Ponzano, Costanza Hermanin and Daniela Corona, Notre Europe, 2012, 76 p.

“This study investigates to what extent the power of legislative initiative of the EC has been exercised and maintained over time by comparing a select number of innovative legislative proposals adopted by four colleges two years after they took up their post: Delors (1991), Santer (1997), Prodi (2002), Barroso (2007).”

The Treaty of Lisbon: A Second Look at the Institutional Innovations / P Broin, P M Kaszinsky, CEPS, 2010, 204 p.

“This study examines the institutional innovations that are gradually being introduced as a result of the Treaty of Lisbon.” Pages 52, 53 and 54 on Legislative initiative.

Preparing for complexity. European Parliament in 2025 / European Parliament Secretary General, 2013, 17 p.

“The report draws the main conclusions to be derived from the work of the Secretariat. After a first report on long term trends, the different Directorates-General asked themselves how these changes could affect the European Parliament and its way to operate.” Pages 10 and 15 on Legislative initiative.

The European Parliament / Corbett, Richard, Jacobs, Francis, Shackleton, Michael, London: John Harper, 2011, EP Library – Brussels
Pages 264-271 on Right to initiate legislation and The Commissions Annual Work Programme.

EU Law : text, cases, and materials / Craig, P. P. (Paul P.), De Búrca, G. , Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011, EP Library – Brussels
Pages 121-123 on Legislative Initiative: principle and practice.

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