November 4, 2013

4 Minutes

European Commission, The Lisbon Treaty

Comitology (what EU regulatory professionals should know)

Hi, my name is Andras Baneth and I am Director and co-founder of the European Training Academy.

Today, I’m going to speak about what used to be called and is still in many circles being called “comitology”.

The concept of Comitology or at least the term “Comitology” no longer exists, today we talk about “implementing measures” or “implementing acts” and “delegated acts”. The topic itself is largely unknown even by many people, experts on European affairs and the very reason being its very high level of complexity.

Now let’s look at what is Comitology.

What are the implementing measures and the delegated acts? Simply put, we can demonstrate it through the following example. If I take a bottle of mineral water and I try to consider it from a legislative, from a legal perspective, certainly there will be European-level regulations and directives affecting food safety, product labeling, source of origin, consumer protection issues… but if we look at what sort of food additives are authorized in that mineral water, which information is allowed on the packaging of the mineral water, these are decided through the previously mentioned regulatory decision making and these regulatory procedures are the ones that we refer to as “Comitology”.

Since the Lisbon Treaty of 2009, these have undergone fundamental changes and today there are two distinct procedures by which the European Commission, the Council of Ministers or, fundamentally, the Member States themselves (and, in small part, the European Parliament) decide these matters. So looking at the regulatory decision making, it’s rather different from the ordinary (legislative) procedure.

Deciding on a certain food additive and authorizing it on a Europe-wide scale takes usually far less time than deciding on a regulation on noble foods or food safety. That is the very reason why this sort of very unique, very special decision making has been created and actually this sort of decision making has existed for over 30 or even 40 years.

Starting from agriculture, now it affects environment cases. Think of CO2 emissions that are authorized in different industries or Member States or think of trade issues deciding on import quotas or export subsidies. These also exists, this decision making exists in the consumer protection field, it exists equally in energy issues and many, many other fields from customs and other trade related topics. So understanding the meaning, the timeline, the main actors in this very specific decision making is fundamental to many industries, governments and stakeholders.

So to sum it up, implementing measures or implementing acts and delegated acts are a very specific way by which the EU institutions decide on regulatory matters, decide on authorizing new substances, new medicines, authorizing certain subsidies determining the quotas in agriculture and so many fields. They always concern very technical and very practical concrete issues many times opposed to directives and regulations which provide the framework but not necessarily this very operational detail.

If you’d like to know more about it, we are more than happy at the European Training Academy to provide a training course or more information on these regulatory procedures.

Thank you very much for watching. This is Andras Baneth from the European Training Academy.

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