On 14 February, the European Commission proposed amendments to the Comitology Regulation, in a bid to increase transparency and accountability in the procedures for implementation of EU legislation.
The Comitology Regulation sets out the procedure whereby the Commission can adopt acts to implement EU law. As part of this procedure, the Commission submits draft implementing acts to a Committee composed of representatives of each Member State, which then vote on the draft, either in favour or against, or which can abstain.
Where there is no qualified majority for or against a measure, the Commission can usually adopt the draft implementing act however, in certain specific policy areas, the Commission must refer the case to an Appeal Committee, also composed of Member State representatives. Each representative of the Appeal Committee can again vote in favour or against the draft or abstain from voting.
Where again there is a failure to reach a qualified majority for or against the measure, the Commission can choose whether or not to adopt the proposal.
During the period 2011- 2015, 36 out of the 40 cases submitted to the Appeal Committee had the ‘’no opinion’ vote confirmed meaning that, because Member States could not decide, the Commission had to take decision of whether or not to implement measures in these often high profile and sensitive cases, a trend that Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker described as ”not right”. This was the case in particular with respect to the genetically modified organisms and glyphosate authorisations.
The Commission therefore released a proposed Regulation, under which only votes in favour or against an act are taken into account at the Appeal Committee stage, with the aim of reducing the use of abstentions and the number of situations where the Committee is unable to take a position.
The proposal also aims to involve 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, and 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.
Finally, the proposal would increase voting transparency at the Appeal Committee level by making public the votes of Member State representatives.
The proposal will now go to the European Parliament and the Council for consideration.