Bursting the Bubble

#EP2014: What happens with incomplete legislative files?

20 January 2014 | by

Yes, indeed, you got it right: this is a piece on boring rules of procedure for the European institutions (the European Parliament, to be more precise). Why undergo such torture? Because I do feel that, with all the attention that is (rightfully) being devoted to the big changes coming up in May, we are a bit ignoring the things and people who will be left behind. By which, I mean that, as much as our focus should truly be on the elections of the incoming Parliament and Commission, we should not forget that the work which has been started in this legislature and has not been brought to an end will not necessarily end up in our beautiful yellow Bruxelles-Propreté trash bags. Here is why.

According to Rule 214 of the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament, “[a]t the end of the last part-session before elections, all Parliament’s unfinished business shall be deemed to have lapsed, subject to the provisions of the second paragraph”. The only exception foreseen to this general rule is that, “[a]t the beginning of each parliamentary term, the Conference of Presidents shall take a decision on reasoned requests from parliamentary committees and other institutions to resume or continue the consideration of such matters”.

The general rule mentioned above will also need to be adapted according to the particular stage a file is in. First reading, as many will know, does not impose a deadline for approval of a file for the institutions. This means that the Conference of Presidents will be free to pick and choose the files in the first reading that it wants to resume. As for files already beyond the first reading, and therefore subject to the applicable deadlines, it will be virtually impossible for the Conference of Presidents to resume them, as parliamentary work will likely not start to be in full gear until September 2014.

All in all, Rule 214 confers solely to the upcoming Conference of Presidents the power of exhuming legislation that will be left over by the current Parliament. Even though the Conference will obviously be subject to the will of the new political groups, and will probably also take into account some of the requests from the new Commission, the Conference will have the ultimate word on the files. Therefore, it seems like the members of the Conference of Presidents will undergo heavy pressure even before the full start of work for the new Parliament.

What do you think?