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Brussels, 16 December 2010

Comitology: new rules for Commission's implementing powers

After 9 months of negotiations, the European Parliament confirmed today the agreement with the Council on the new regulation on implementing powers for the Commission. This new regulation, proposed by the Commission shortly after the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, means a wide ranging reform of the so-called 'comitology' system. It will enter into force on 1st March and will automatically replace the existing system.

“I am very happy to see that, one year after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, and only 9 months after the Commission's proposal, we have managed to get agreement on this very important piece of legislation which will have a major impact on the way the Commission implements European policies,” said Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President for Inter-institutional relations and Administration. “The negotiations have not always been easy, but our main objectives have been met. The new rules establish a system of control by Member States of the implementing powers given to the Commission which will be simpler, more efficient, more transparent and in full compliance with the Treaty”.

The Treaty of Lisbon foresees two kinds of powers to the Commission: delegated powers for quasi-legislative measures, and implementing powers. In the past, all these acts were submitted to so-called comitology procedures. While the treaty provision on delegated acts (article 290) is self-executing, entails no comitology procedures and has been in force since 1st December 2009, the treaty provision on implementing powers (article 291) foresees the adoption of a regulation to establish the conditions for control by the Member States of how the Commission exercises implementing powers.

As in the past, the mechanism of control foreseen by the regulation is based on "comitology" – i.e. committees composed by representatives of Member States to which the Commission submits draft implementing measures - but, contrary to the present system, there can be no intervention from the Council as an appeal body. In some specific cases there might be a need to go to an "appeal committee", but this is just a "normal" committee, chaired by the Commission, albeit of a higher level of representation. It provides the opportunity to reconsider the draft measures or to r make changes if need be.

Moreover, the regulation foresees that implementing measures in policy areas such as trade defence measures will be included in the normal regime. Until now these measures were submitted to special procedures in which the Council frequently had the last word. By bringing these measures into the normal rules, the new regulation increases the transparency and effectiveness of policy implementation in these very important areas.

The new regulation simplifies existing procedures and it will begin to apply to all existing legislation from "day one". The new rules fully reflect the Commission's role under the Treaties: only a qualified majority vote by the committee against a draft implementing act can prevent the Commission from adopting it; but, of course, the Commission intends to continue to work in full partnership with Member States.

The new procedures also give more flexibility to the Commission and a greater political responsibility. In the absence of a qualified majority against or in favour of a Commission draft implementing act, the Commission will have the choice between adopting the act or reviewing it.

The only exception, where the Commission needs a positive opinion of the committee to adopt the draft implementing act, relates to definitive multilateral trade safeguard measures. The Commission regrets this exception to the normal rules. However, most trade defence measures, such as anti-dumping and countervailing definitive measures, will be submitted to the new standard rules. These will help to avoid the politicisation of the process, leave less room for lobbying by any party or by third countries, and ensure a more robust trade defence policy.

All comitology procedures will be conducted in full transparency: all documents submitted to the committees are simultaneously disclosed to the European Parliament and to the Council. These two institutions, on a completely equal footing, will also have a "scrutiny right": they may indicate at any time that they consider the draft implementing act to exceed the powers conferred by the relevant legal basis to the Commission. In such a case, the Commission will review the draft measure in question and will explain to the European Parliament and the Council what it intends to do.

The Commission welcomes the agreement as a very sound basis for the correct implementation of EU law, and a welcome improvement for transparent and efficient decision making.

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