The European Parliament (EP) is the only directly elected EU institution. The upcoming elections will highlight the increase in its powers subsequent to the Lisbon Treaty – for example, the EP will elect the European Commission President, on the basis of a proposal from the Heads of State, and taking into account the European elections.
In this regard, the Europeanisation of the 2014 EP elections aims at making the elections more political and lively, therefore increasing voter turnout. We will look at the theme of the elections in more detail in a couple of weeks.
You have the opportunity to make your voice heard by voting. But first, take a look at our explanation of the European Parliament’s role after Lisbon. The 2009 Treaty of Lisbon introduced a range of institutional reforms aimed at reinforcing democracy and accountability in the EU. This post wraps together a selection of our publications focusing on the evolution of Parliament’s legislative powers, its role in EU international agreements, its role in adopting the EU budget and its role in the EU measures in response to the economic and financial crisis.
The EP has more legislative clout than ever before
The European Citizens’ Initiative now allows for one million citizens to have a say in presenting proposals for legislative initiatives. The EP and the Council can also invite the Commission to present proposals, although the Commission has a near monopoly over the legislative initiative. The EU legislative programming follows an annual cycle where the Commission plays the leading role, but the EP and the Council together with other stakeholders can influence the outcome in several ways and at different stages.
The Lisbon Treaty enhanced the EP’s role as legislator. The co-decision procedure, where a proposal needs to be approved by both the EP and the Council, became the ordinary legislative procedure. Its scope was enlarged to new policy areas, meaning that it is now the standard procedure. In the basic act the co-legislators may delegate to the executive a mandate to give implementing or delegated acts on a case by case basis.
Moreover in order to better fulfil its role during the entire policy cycle, the EP is developing greater use of ex-ante and ex-post evaluation of EU policies and legislation, and produces studies on the added value of EU legislation.
Remember ACTA? The EP and EU international agreements
During the 7th term ending this May, Parliament exercised its enhanced role in the conclusion of international agreements several times. When international agreements between the EU and non-Member State countries or third-party organisations are negotiated, the EP is kept informed throughout the procedure. In order to enter into force, an agreement needs to be approved by the EP according to the consent procedure by simple majority vote, with no possibility for amendments. Many recall in this context the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), rejected by the EP in July 2012, as well as the rejection and later the approval of a revised deal on the SWIFT agreement in 2010.
The Lisbon Treaty puts the EP and the Council – the two arms of the budgetary authority – on an equal footing in setting the annual budget of the EU. In addition, it also gives the EP a clear role in the establishment of the EU’s long-term financial priorities since the Council needs Parliament’s consent before adopting the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). The 2014-2020 MFF was agreed last year.
Furthermore, each year the European Parliament ensures democratic scrutiny of how the EU budget has been used through the discharge procedure. The EP decides whether to grant discharge for budget implementation to the Commission, following a non-binding recommendation by the Council. This is one of the tools the EP has for oversight of the Commission.
Economic and Financial crises – where now?
The economic and financial crisis has had a profound impact on the whole EU. Measures taken to tackle EMU shortcomings have largely been driven by the European Council. As a result, tensions between the intergovernmental approach with instruments operating outside the EU legal framework and the ‘Community method’ have stimulated discussions on the democratic deficit in economic governance. The EP’s role in anti-crisis decision-making has been rather limited, especially when it comes to adoption and implementation of agreements outside the EU framework. Nevertheless, means to strengthen democratic legitimacy are the centre of attention in the new economic architecture of the EU, for example in the construction of the Banking Union.
Although measures to overcome the crisis seek to ensure financial stability and economic growth, they are characterised by constitutional problems of multi-tier governance. The economic and financial crisis has thus bought the EU to a political crossroad on the future direction of the European Project. Whether this will lead to institutional reform or a shift in the balance of competencies, and whether it will include a revision of the Treaties, remains to be seen.
For your eyes only:
To keep informed on EU Constitutional Affairs, MEP’s offices and EP staff can subscribe to e-mail alerts providing in-house analysis and hand-picked external info sources delivered directly to their inbox. Selected examples of latest analyses:
- “The EP in a multi-level governance EU – Ways to reduce the democratic deficit” / Klaus Welle, CEPS lunch debate 26.6.2013
- Banking Union and Beyond: Discussion papers for Brussels Think Tank Dialogue / Silvia Merler, Bruegel, 2014, 21 p.
- Strategic Options for Europe’s Future – first report of the New Pact for Europe project / Janis A. Emmanouilidis (rapporteur), New Pact for Europe Project, 2013, 91 p.
Furthermore, we hold subscriptions to academic full-text e-journals, such as Journal of European Public Policy,European Law Journal, European Constitutional Law Review and many others. [intranet access only]
Finally, we have a collection of books focusing on the Lisbon Treaty and the European Parliament. These books are available in the Library collection: [intranet access only]. Here are some examples:
- The Lisbon Treaty: law, politics, and treaty reform / Craig, P. P., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013
- The European Parliament / Corbett, Richard, Jacobs, Francis, Shackleton, Michael, London: John Harper, 2011
- The Lisbon Treaty: a legal and political analysis / Piris, Jean-Claude, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010