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Vice-President of the European Commission
Responsible for "Inter-Institutional Relations and Administration"
Plenary debate on the revised Framework between the Commission and Parliament
Plenary Discussion Framework Agreement
Strasbourg, 18 October 2010
It is a pleasure for me to join your debate on the revised Framework Agreement on relations between our two Institutions.
I am very satisfied that the resolution you are going to vote on Wednesday recommends to Parliament to endorse the FA. This will successfully bring to a close a process that started almost one year ago with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.
On this occasion, I would like to express my sincere thanks to Mr. LEHNE as well as to the whole Working Party, Ms Roth-Berendt, Ms Wallis, Ms Harms and Mr Swoboda, as well as our rapporteur Mr Rangel, which represented Parliaments in these negotiations, who I found to be very constructive and frank.
It is evident that the increased rights and competences of Parliament under the new Treaty have in many ways an impact on our Institutions' working relations. This was reflected by Parliament's resolution of 9th February 2010 and by President Barroso's related statement on that day.
It is therefore of great importance that with the revised FA, our Institutions will now get a solid, and also formally agreed, basis for their mutual relations, and will be able to start implementing all elements of the Agreement in their daily practice.
This revised FA builds on the existing FA from 2005, which, as we see it, has been a very successful instrument to govern our Institution's relations. It was in this spirit of successful cooperation that we started our negotiations for the revision of the FA in March.
I am very satisfied with the outcome. As your Rapporteur Mr. Rangel, I am also of the opinion that this revision is a significant achievement which will deepen the relations between our institutions and offer practical solutions in line with the increased competences of Parliament, following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. A big step forward in the setting-up of a special partnership between our Institutions.
Let me single out a few element which constitute real progress:
The agreement sets out rules and a timetable for an intensified and structured dialogue between our Institutions that allows Parliament to give important input when the Commission is preparing its Work Programme as its contribution to Union programming.
It sets detailed rules for how the Commission will inform Parliament about the negotiation and conclusion of international agreements.
It brings the rules for the provision of classified information to Parliament up to international standards and will thus facilitate informing Parliament for example on international negotiations.
It also sets rules to enhance the information provided to Parliament in relation to the work of experts advising the Commission.
I expect that it will enhance our dialogue and co-ordination with regard to planning of Parliament's part-sessions and ensuring the presence of Commissioners.
Even though the Agreement is not yet in force, we have already implemented important elements of it. Let me just mention a few examples related to the preparation of the Commission's work programme 2011: President Barroso has on 7th September held his state of the Union address in Parliament, I attended the Conference of Presidents on 23rd September and on 7th October the College and the Conference of Committee Chairs met. Moreover, on Wednesday, President Barroso will meet Parliaments Conference of Presidents.
All this is aimed at intensifying the political dialogue between our Institutions, and from my perspective I can say that we seem to have designed the right instruments for this in our Framework Agreement.
As you all know, the negotiations for the revised FA were long and required a major effort by both institutions to arrive at a text that caters for both our Institution's interests and concerns.
We also knew that for a number of aspects in our relations, for example Union programming, introduced by the Lisbon treaty, we would have to involve also the Council.
As the Council had chosen not to be part of the negotiations for the revised FA, we have taken care not to pre-empt on issues that need to be agreed with Council.
Therefore, the negotiators from both sides made sincere efforts to fully respect the balance of institutions as defined by the Treaties and the commitment to loyal cooperation between them.
Not only is this repeatedly evoked in the Agreement; the Commission is also firmly convinced that the text which we found after sometimes difficult negotiations does indeed fully respect the rights and competences of each EU Institution and stands the test of legal scrutiny.
Nevertheless there are voices which consider that the Framework Agreement goes already too far, and a legal challenge against the Agreement or against specific instances of its implementation cannot be excluded.
In this context, the Commission notes that the motion for a resolution for the adoption of the revised Framework Agreement will set out in an official manner Parliament's own interpretation of the agreed text.
On some important issues, this interpretation goes beyond the text agreed after sensitive discussions. This concerns notably the provisions regarding information of Parliament about negotiations for international agreements and the inclusion of Members of Parliament as observers into Union delegations to international conferences, as well as the definitions and conditions for application of soft law.
When questioning this approach in the Constitutional Affairs Committee, the Commission was told that these interpretations were in fact intended to put on record Parliament's initial objectives and that only the text of the Framework Agreement as such had legal value.
To avoid all ambiguity, it is in this sense that the Commission reads Parliament's interpretations of the text.
The Commission stands firmly by all commitments that it has made in the Agreement and it intends to apply the agreement, following the agreed text by the letter.
But let me make it clear beyond any doubt: the Commission will not be bound by any unilateral interpretation of this Framework Agreement.
The FA text as negotiated will in practice give us all necessary possibilities to find solutions in the interest of both Parliament and the Commission, without disregarding the rights and interests of other Institutions.
In this spirit we will continue to put into practice the special partnership between our two Institutions and at the same time loyally cooperate between all the Institutions.
I am looking forward to the signature of the Agreement and its successful implementation thereafter.
Thank you for your attention.
Let me first state my satisfaction with the general support for the Framework Agreement that many of you have expressed.
Of course, I have listened with great attention to your comments and questions, some of which reflect concerns about the reached agreement.
I should first underline that it is for the Commission an important principle that established and successful practices of cooperation between our institutions should be preserved. This means that the revised Framework Agreement should not lead to any roll-back of successful practices. In fact, I expect that in reality, applying the FA will in all cases lead to clear improvements.
This being said, both parties acknowledged during the negotiations that they will face difficult interpretation issues but also expressed readiness to implement the revised Framework Agreement in the most constructive way. I can assure you that the Commission is committed to do so.
Allow me also to confirm that the Commission will come forward soon with a proposal to revise the Code of Conduct and that, according to the terms of the Framework Agreement, it will seek the Parliament's opinion in a timely manner.
Now we must put the Framework Agreement to the test of practice.
I am convinced that practice will show that many of the concerns that some express today will not materialize – but also that some expectations, which go beyond the competencies that the Treaties attribute to each of the Institutions, will have been corrected.
Should we discover problems, we will again sit together and seek solutions. In fact, we have foreseen a review of the FA already by the end of 2011.
In this sense, I am looking forward to collaborate with you on basis of this revised Framework Agreement that I hope and expect you will support on Wednesday. I believe this positive spirit will preval in relations between all institutions. The citizens of Europe expects us to work effectively together, and we should deliver.