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Parliament’s legislative initiative

The European Commission has a near monopoly on legislative initiative in the European Union (EU), with special initiative rights for other institutions applying only in certain specific cases. However, the European Parliament (EP), and the Council, have the right to invite the Commission to present legislative proposals.

Parliament's legislative initiative
© European Union 2011 PE-EP / European Parliament

Whilst this ‘indirect’ initiative right does not create an obligation on the Commission to propose the legislation requested, the Treaty of Lisbon codified the Commission’s obligation to provide reasons for any refusal to follow a parliamentary initiative. Many argue in this context that Parliament could take the Commission to the Court of Justice of the EU if it fails to justify a negative decision.

Many see the EP’s increasing participation in overall political planning, particularly through negotiations on the Commission’s Annual Work Programme, as a further channel for Parliament’s influence on EU legislation.

It is argued that the increased role of Parliament in the legislative procedure should have reduced the need for its Members to make use of legislative initiatives. Notwithstanding that, there is a trend towards greater use of formal parliamentary legislative initiatives to assert greater influence on the political process.

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