Written by Evarts Anosovs
Since the Lisbon Treaty entered into force, the European Parliament (EP) has acquired a significant role in the conclusion of international agreements (Articles 207, 218 of TFEU). An international agreement is the result of a consensus between the European Union and third country or third-party organisation. The Parliament’s consent is required for almost all international commitments of the European Union. These new powers allow the EP to exercise parliamentary oversight over the EU’s external policies. The Lisbon Treaty and subsequently the Inter-institutional Framework Agreement between the Parliament and the Commission ensures that the EP is informed throughout all stages of the negotiation process until the conclusion of the international agreement. Furthermore, the participation of Parliament in the process provides for the possibility to assert influence on and propose modifications to the text of the agreements.
Post Lisbon, the Parliament has been involved in the conclusion of a number of international agreements, including The Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (SWIFT/TFTP), Passengers Name Record Agreements (PNR) with the US and Australia, EU Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA). In 2012, it declined to consent to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).
This Keysource outlines the procedural elements of Parliament’s involvement in international agreements. It also presents selected international agreements highlighting Parliament’s role in each.
The studies below provide an overview of the role of the EP in the process of conclusion of some international agreements.
The “Lisbonisation” of the European Parliament / Sergio Carrera, Nicholas Hernanz and Joanna Parkin, Policy Department C, Study for the EP Policy Department, the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), The EP, July 2013, p. 55
“This study examines the performance of the European Parliament (EP) in EU area of freedom, security and justice (AFSJ) law and policy-making from the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty until the end of the first half of 2013. The study places the EP in the new post-Lisbon institutional setting, documenting its transition to ‘AFSJ decision-maker’, and its new powers to shape and make policy, covering the EU’s internal and external security agenda.”
The role of the European Parliament in the conclusion of the Transatlantic Agreements on the transfer of personal data after Lisbon / Juan Santos Vara, CLEER working papers 2013/2, the Centre for the Law of EU External Relations, February, 2013 p. 30
“The study evaluates the application of the ordinary legislative procedure to the adoption of acts in the area of police and judicial cooperation and how it has enhanced the role of the European Parliament in the conclusion of international agreements.”
Procedure of adoption
The European Commission presents recommendations to the Council for initiating negotiations on international agreement. The Council adopts a decision authorising the opening of negotiations. The Commission then conducts negotiations in cooperation with Member States and their involvement in the process depends on the field of the agreement (Articles 207, 218 of TFEU).
The Lisbon Treaty introduced enhanced powers of the European Parliament in the procedure of adopting international agreements. The main articles corresponding to conclusion of international agreements are Articles 207, 218 of TFEU. The Parliament is not directly involved in the negotiations, but it has the following rights according to Articles 207, 218 of TFEU, Rules 108–109 of the Procedure of the EP and Points 23, 24, 25 of the EP/COM Framework agreement:
- be regularly informed about the negotiations on an equal footing with the Council,
- issue resolution, where its position and/or recommendation is stated during any stage of negotiations,
- monitor the process of negotiations,
- provide or decline its consent to the final text of the agreement.
According to the Inter-institutional Framework Agreement between the EP and the EC Annex III Point 5, the Commission should inform the European Parliament:
“In the case of international agreements the conclusion of which requires Parliament’s consent, the Commission shall provide to Parliament during the negotiation process all relevant information that it also provides to the Council (or to the special committee appointed by the Council). This shall include draft amendments to adopted negotiating directives, draft negotiating texts, agreed articles, the agreed date for initialling the agreement and the text of the agreement to be initialled. The Commission shall also transmit to Parliament, as it does to the Council (or to the special committee appointed by the Council), any relevant documents received from third parties, subject to the originator’s consent. The Commission shall keep the responsible parliamentary committee informed about developments in the negotiations and, in particular, explain how Parliament’s views have been taken into account.”
The documents below provide key references on the Procedure for the adoption of international agreements.
Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the European Commission, OJ L 304/47, 20 November 2010
The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), JO 2012/C 326/01, 26/10/2012 Articles 207 and 218
Selected cases of International Agreements
This section summarises how in practice, the enhanced powers of the EP has been applied in negotiations in a selected number of international agreements. It includes the external dimension of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, the Common Fisheries Policy and the Common Commercial Policy.
- Passengers Name Record agreements
In May 2010, the European Parliament in its resolution decided to postpone its consent for renewal on the Passengers Name Record agreements (PNR) with the USA and Australia. Later, in November 2010, the EP requested that PNR agreements with the US, Australia and Canada should be renegotiated since existing ones do not provide an adequate level of protection for the passengers personal data. In October 2011, the EP gave its consent to the PNR with Australia and to the PNR with the USA in April 2012, when improved safeguards on data protection and fundamental rights were included in the agreements. For more information on PNR – Library Briefing by Graham Stull, July 2011
- Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was rejected by the European Parliament in July, 2012. ACTA is an international agreement (on the protection of intellectual property rights) between the EU, its Member States and ten other countries. The EP rejected the agreement mainly due to concerns about endangerment of civil liberties, if the agreement was enforced. For more information on ACTA – Library Briefing by Cornelia Vutz, June 2012
- Fisheries Partnership Agreement
In December 2011, the EP declined its consent to the renewal of the Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA) with Morocco. The EP declined its consent due to a number of economic and environmental problems identified in the evaluation prepared for the Commission as well as legal issues concerning the territory of Western Sahara. However, the EP immediately adopted the resolution on starting negotiations on a new FPA with Morocco. For more information on the FPA with Morocco – Library Briefing by Guillaume Ragonnaud, February 2012
- Terrorist Finance Tracking Program
The European Parliament rejected the SWIFT/TFTP Agreement (The Terrorist Finance Tracking Program – TFTP) in February 2010. The SWIFT/TFTP is an International Agreement between the EU and US on the exchange of financial data in order to prevent or investigate terrorism. The key reason for rejection was the weak protection of data privacy. In July 2010, the EP gave consent after its requested data protection standards were improved in the Agreement. For more information on SWIFT/TFTP and EU-US cooperation – Library Briefing by Nicholas Copeland, April 2011.
- Ongoing International Agreements
The EP is closely monitoring and has already been active during of initial stages of international agreements still under negotiation including – EU Trade negotiations with Japan; Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and Trade in Services Agreement.
If you wish to read further on these International Agreements, please refer to the following Library Briefings
EU-Japan Trade negotiations by Francesco Pontiroli Gobbi, October 2012
EU-US Trade Partnership by Carmen-Cristina Cîrlig, May 2013
Trade in Services by Laine Škoba, July 2013
Trade negotiations – step by step / European Commission, DG Trade fact sheet, 4 Sep 2013, 8 p.
Overview of FTA and other trade negotiations / European Commission, DG Trade, Regularly updated
The role of the European Parliament in international negotiations after Lisbon, Ariadna Ripoll Servent, Journal of European Public Policy, Volume 21, Issue 4, 2014, pp. 568-586
Departing from ‘two-level-games’ and principal–agent models, this article examines three interrelated elements (levels of negotiations; decision-making stages; and strategies) to explain the first international negotiations under the consent procedure (SWIFT Agreement).
Is the EP Still a Data Protection Champion? The Case of SWIFT, Ariadna Ripoll Servent and Alex Mackenzie, Perspectives on European Politics & Society, Dec 2011, Vol. 12 Issue 4, pp. 390-406
“Whereas the EP was relatively powerless in previous international agreements concerned with data protection, the EU-US SWIFT Agreement allowed the EP, for the first time, to flex its muscles…”
The European Parliament, Corbett Richard, Jacobs Francis, Shackleton Michael, London, John Harper, 2011, Book available in EPRS Library – Brussels
Pages 251 – 256 on the consent procedure.
“This chapter explains in detail the role of the European Parliament within the Consent Procedure. It looks at how it has changed from the Assent Procedure to Consent Procedure with specific consideration towards the adoption of international agreements.”
EU Law after Lisbon, Biondi Andrea, Eeckhout Piet, Ripley Stefanie, Oxford University Press, 2012, Book available in EPRS Library – Brussels
Pages 248 – 261 on the role of the European Parliament.
“A description of the role of the European Parliament in the process of adopting international agreements is given here.”