The Union's decision-making procedures
, adopted by the Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC), are designed to simplify the
Hence, out of the four existing legislative procedures, only codecision has been retained. The extension of this procedure, which the Constitution enshrines as the "ordinary legislative procedure", is the most remarkable novelty.
Special legislative procedures are also envisaged, but a general "bridging" clause offers the option of switching to the ordinary legislative procedure. However, even this so-called "simplified revision procedure" is not straightforward, as it requires unanimity within the European Council as well as the agreement of each national parliament.
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The Constitution proposes a simplification of the Union's legislative procedures.
The consultation and assent procedures, as provided for in the current treaties, are brought together under "special legislative procedures".
The codecision procedure, as provided for in Article 251 of the EC Treaty, is retained unchanged, becoming the "ordinary legislative procedure". Details are set out in Articles I-34 and III-396.
European laws and framework laws will be adopted jointly by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, acting on a proposal from the Commission, in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure described in Article III-396. This will simplify the provisions which, in the existing Treaty, impose the codecision mechanism: the references to the Commission's proposal and the codecision procedure are directly incorporated in the term "law" or "framework law". Therefore, where an article refers to a law or framework law, this automatically means that the ordinary legislative procedure applies. In the case of a law or framework law of the Council or European Parliament, a special legislative procedure will apply.
The Constitution greatly extends application of the ordinary legislative procedure
and hence enhances Parliament's powers of decision. This generalisation of the codecision
procedure is also accompanied by the
extension of qualified-majority voting to approximately 20 provisions
currently requiring unanimity and almost as many new legal bases.
The extension of the codecision procedure and qualified-majority voting should make it easier to adopt decisions.
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Article I-34 states that, in certain cases specified in the Constitution,
laws and framework laws
may be adopted by the Council alone or, more rarely, by the European Parliament
alone, rather than by the two institutions jointly. The outcome will be laws and
framework laws of the Council adopted after consulting Parliament, and laws and framework
laws of the Parliament adopted after consulting the Council, as the case may be.
The Constitution does not go into the details of how these special legislative procedures will operate (as it does for the ordinary legislative procedure in Article III-396). It is therefore necessary in each individual case to refer to the legal bases which provide for these procedures.
The special legislative procedures relate to a certain number of other legal bases and cover the equivalent of the former consultation, cooperation and assent procedures. Consequently, they apply above all in the following areas:
- justice and home affairs , e.g. any matters concerning the European public prosecutor's office, operational police cooperation, measures relating to passports, identity cards and residence permits, and family law measures with cross-border implications;
- budget (own resources, multiannual financial framework, etc.) and taxation (movement of capital to or from third countries and harmonisation of legislation on indirect taxation);
- specific aspects of certain policies, such as environmental measures of a fiscal nature, research and technological development programmes (however, the multiannual framework programme is adopted according to the ordinary legislative procedure), social security and social protection for workers.
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The Constitution provides for so-called "bridging" provisions aimed at extending the scope of qualified-majority voting and the ordinary legislative procedure.
Therefore, as regards legislative procedure, it will henceforth be possible to switch from special legislative procedures to the ordinary legislative procedure without passing through the IGC mechanism requiring ratification by all Member States.
Article IV-444 of the Constitutional Treaty contains details of how these bridging provisions will work:
- a general bridging clause allows the European Council, acting unanimously and after obtaining Parliament's approval, to authorise application of the ordinary legislative procedure for any legal basis under Part III of the Constitution, provided that no national parliament makes known its opposition within six months;
- specific bridging provisions are also provided for, as is already the situation in the fields of social, environmental and family law policies. In these cases the Council must act unanimously after consulting Parliament, and the national parliaments are not involved.
Bridging provisions represent one of the most important innovations of the Constitutional Treaty. They open the door for extending not only qualified-majority voting, but also the role of Parliament in areas where it is not yet on an equal footing with the Council.
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|Article IV-444||Bridging clause||New provisions|
|Article I-34||The ordinary legislative procedure and the special legislative procedure||New provisions|
|Article III-396||The ordinary legislative procedure||-|
These factsheets are not legally binding on the European Commission. They do not claim to be exhaustive and do not represent an official interpretation of the text of the Constitution.