Archives Archives Archives Archives
The Union's institutions
The reforms proposed by the Convention concerning the European Parliament focus on the creation of a new system of distributing seats between the Member States and on extending the Parliament's powers in the Union's decision-making procedures. Just as in the case of the other institutions, the Convention proposes consolidating the most important rules concerning Parliament in a single article in the first part of the constitutional treaty, so as to enhance visibility (Article I-19).
To prevent overly long negotiations on the distribution of seats at the Parliament between the Member States, the Convention proposes establishing basic rules for this distribution and conferring on Parliament the task of preparing a proposal on the subject, which the European Council will have to adopt by unanimity.
With each reform of the treaties, the European Parliament's role in the Union's decision-making procedure has been enhanced. The members of the Convention also envisage extending the codecision procedure, rebaptised as the "ordinary legislative procedure", to a large number of articles. If the Convention's proposals are accepted, the Parliament will become co-legislator in almost all cases, with the exception of a dozen acts, where it will only be consulted. The details concerning this progression towards the "ordinary legislative procedure" are the subject of a specific file concerning the legislative procedure .
[ Top ]
Article I-19 of the draft constitutional treaty sets out the general rules concerning the Parliament. The Convention proposes jointly vesting the Parliament and the Council of Ministers with the legislative and budgetary functions. Hence the Parliament is put on an equal footing with the Council of Ministers as regards these two functions. Besides, the Parliament has functions of political control and consultation as laid down by the Constitution (control of the Commission or execution of the budget, for example).
The Convention proposes that in future the President of the Commission be elected by the European Parliament by a majority of its members, acting on a proposal from the European Council . This proposal will have to take into account the results of the European elections. Note that the term 'election' was preferred to that of 'approval', used up to now in the Treaty establishing the European Community. The purpose of this amendment is to enhance the importance of the European elections and of the Parliament and clearly highlights the responsibility of the President of the Commission vis-à-vis the Parliament.
[ Top ]
The constitutional treaty proposed by the Convention does not envisage any change in the procedure for the European elections. These elections must of course be based on direct universal suffrage in free and secret ballot and allow the European citizens to elect their representatives for a term of five years. In Article III-232 the Convention maintains the legal basis, stipulating that the European elections must be organised in accordance with a uniform procedure in all Member States. This article specifies that a law or framework law must establish the necessary measures for compliance with this requirement.
The Convention proposes a total of 736 seats, increasing by four seats the current number laid down in the Treaty of Nice . The purpose of this amendment is to accommodate the additional seats granted to the Czech Republic and Hungary by the Accession Treaty so as to put these States on the same footing as Belgium, Portugal and Greece.
The members of the Convention propose breaking with the tradition of enshrining in the treaties the detailed breakdown of seats between the different Member States. Instead, the Convention suggests establishing an allocation rule which states that representation of citizens shall be degressively proportional, with a minimum threshold of four members per Member State (Article I-19). Sufficiently in advance of the European Parliamentary elections in 2009, the European Council should adopt by unanimity, on the basis of a proposal from the Parliament, and with its consent, a decision establishing the composition of the Parliament. The new composition rules should thus be based on a proposal from the Parliament, which will give it greater influence on its own composition. If, following a subsequent enlargement, it turns out to be necessary to alter once again the distribution of seats, an identical procedure will apply, so that it will not be necessary to modify the Constitution.
For the 2004-2009 legislature, the distribution of seats is in line with the rules approved at Nice , as set down in the Treaty of Accession concluded with the ten new Member States. The Convention proposes including this distribution in the "Protocol on the representation of citizens in the European Parliament and the weighting of votes in the European Council and the Council of Ministers", which is to be annexed to the Constitution.
[ Top ]
The Convention proposes simplifying the Union's legislative procedures . The introduction of the "ordinary legislative procedure" (Articles I-33 and III-302), modelled on the existing "codecision" procedure, will give the Parliament equal legislative powers with the Council of Ministers. The European laws and framework laws will, pursuant to the Convention's proposal, be adopted by the Parliament and the Council of Ministers in accordance with the procedure described in Article III-302. The Convention proposes extending the application of this legislative procedure to a large number of articles and thus to give more decision-making powers to the Parliament. For certain laws and framework laws which are adopted in accordance with a special procedure, the Convention provides that the Parliament must be consulted or must approve the act in question.
In the budgetary procedure (Articles III-309 to III-312), the Parliament has enhanced its powers, since the budgetary procedure now belongs to the ordinary legislative procedure and the Parliament takes the final decision on the budget. Besides, the old distinction between compulsory and non-compulsory expenditure is eliminated, which means that Parliament's influence has been extended to the entire budget. Previously, only non-compulsory expenditure had to be finally approved by the Parliament.
[ Top ]
In Articles III-232 to III-243 the draft constitutional treaty addresses more specific rules (the European elections, working methods, the annual session, temporary committees of inquiry, the citizens' right of petition, the role of the European Ombudsman, the adoption of rules of procedure, the motion of censure against the Commission, etc.) without however changing the basic rules set out in the existing treaties.
[ Top ]
|I-19||The European Parliament||Significant changes|
|I-33||The legislative acts||Significant changes|
|III-232 to III-243||The European Parliament - specific rules||-|
|III-302||The ordinary legislative procedure||Significant changes|
|III-309 to III-312||The Union's annual budget||-|
|Protocol on the representation of citizens in the European Parliament and the weighting of votes in the European Council and the Council of Ministers||Transitional provisions||-|
The fact sheets 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 Convention.