The Commission is delivering on President Juncker's pledge in his State of the Union Speech in September 2016 when he stated, "It is not right that when EU countries cannot decide among themselves whether or not to ban the use of glyphosate in herbicides, the Commission is forced by Parliament and Council to take a decision. So we will change those rules."
The package of four targeted amendments will enhance transparency about the positions taken by Member States, allow for greater political guidance, and ensure more accountability in the decision-making process. The four measures proposed are:
- changing the voting rules at the last stage of the comitology procedure (the Appeal Committee), so that only votes in favour or against an act are taken into account; this will reduce the use of abstentions and the number of situations where the Committee is unable to take a position and the Commission is obliged to act without a clear mandate from the Member States;
- involving national Ministers by allowing the Commission to make a second referral to the Appeal Committee at Ministerial level if national experts do not take a position; this will ensure that sensitive decisions are discussed at the appropriate political level;
- increasing voting transparency at the Appeal Committee level by making public the votes of Member State representatives;
- ensuring political input by enabling the Commission to refer the matter to the Council of Ministers for an Opinion if the Appeal Committee is unable to take a position.
The comitology system works well for the large majority of decisions. However, in a number of high profile and sensitive cases in recent years Member States have been unable to find the necessary majorities to either vote in favour or against certain draft acts, a so-called 'no opinion' scenario. In these cases, the responsibility to take a final decision falls upon the Commission, obliging a decision to be taken without clear political backing from Member States. In 2015 and 2016, the Commission was legally obliged to adopt 17 acts which concerned the authorisation of sensitive products and substances such as glyphosate or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), despite Member States being unable to take position either in favour or against the decisions.
This proposal was announced as one of the key new initiatives in the 2017 Commission Work Programme. It will now be transmitted to the European Parliament and the Council.
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