Written by Micaela Del Monte and Rafał Mańko.
Law-making by the executive is a phenomenon that exists not only in the European Union (EU) but also in its Member States, as well as in other Western liberal democracies. Many national legal systems differentiate between delegated legislation − adopted by the executive and having the same legal force as parliamentary legislation − and purely executive acts −aimed at implementing parliamentary legislation, but that may neither supplement nor modify it.
In the EU, the distinction between delegated acts and implementing acts was introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon. The distinction, laid down in Articles 290 and 291 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), seems clear only at first sight. Delegated acts are defined as non-legislative acts of general application, adopted by the European Commission on the basis of a delegation contained in a legislative act. They may supplement or amend the basic act, but only as to non-essential aspects of the policy area. In contrast, implementing acts are not defined as to their legal nature, but to their purpose − where uniform conditions for implementing legally binding Union acts are needed. Under no circumstances may an implementing act modify anything in the basic act.
Delegated acts differ from implementing acts in particular with regard to the procedural aspects of their adoption − the former after consulting Member States’ experts, but their view is not binding; the latter in the comitology procedure, where experts designated by the Member States, sitting on specialised committees, can object to a draft implementing act. In the case of delegated acts, however, the Parliament and Council can introduce, in the delegation itself, a right to object to a draft act or even to revoke the delegation altogether.
Both delegated and implementing acts are subject to judicial review by the Court of Justice of the EU which controls their conformity with the basic act.
Read the complete in-depth analysis on ‘Understanding delegated and implementing acts‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.
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