December 2, 2013

5 Minutes

European Commission, EU lobbying

Decision making inside EU institutions

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

Today, I’m going to speak about a topic which so many people dealing with European affairs tend to overlook, and that issue is ‘How are decisions made inside EU institutions?’

Most of the textbooks and introductory books on European affairs, and especially European decision-making tend to focus on the inter-institutional decision-making. How the ordinary procedure, ordinary legislative procedure, the former co-decision procedure actually works. That is very, very important in-and-by itself, but knowing how the position of the European Commission is actually decided is just as important; the same thing with the European Parliament.

When we say, well, that the European Parliament has rejected the ACTA treaty, it’s very, very interesting by itself how that decision was made, but the key point is how did the European Parliament come to that conclusion, and how did it formulate its official position internally, in-house?

The same story with the Council of Ministers: how do the Ministers “rubberstamp” a decision which may have already been decided in its core elements at the Working Group level?

The answer to this question of decision-making inside EU institutions is complex but at the same time, I can provide you a very simple framework that will help you put the little pieces of the puzzle in their place.

That framework is the following.

In each of the EU institutions (and here I’m focusing on the Parliament, Commission and Council of Ministers), we can look at the system as a pyramid.

In this pyramid, there is always the technical level, the lower part where desk officers, attaches from the different Member States or individual Members of the European Parliament prepare the file from a technical, detailed, nuance manner. Each file slowly but surely makes it way up towards the top part of the pyramid where the political level eventually approves or rejects that prepared file.

The legitimacy in each EU institution is coming from the top.

In the European Commission, every decision taken inside the European Commission is coming from the 28-member ‘College of Commissioners’. They are the ultimate authority who set the machinery in action, and they are the ones who eventually approve or reject a prepared proposal.

The same story goes in the European Parliament.

The ultimate authority in the European Parliament is the plenary session in Strasbourg where all the Members of the Parliament (or at least, in practical terms, most Members of the European Parliament) are present, and they make their final decision, they have the ultimate authority to approve or reject the European Parliament’s position on a matter.

The same is true in the Council of Ministers. Because there, it’s the Ministers themselves who will ultimately approve a sectoral decision that had been prepared earlier by the Working Groups, including attaches or the Committee of Permanent Representatives.

For the Council of Ministers, we may also look at their ultimate forum where the Heads of State and government in the form of European Council are assembling but for the sake of understanding, it’s important to look, in each EU institution, at who has the ultimate authority and who deals with the file in its technical stage.

I hope this helps you in visualizing and understanding how a given EU institution is formed because this can have an impact on how you, as a trade organization, an industry association, as a federation and as a private company or a diplomatic body actually represent your interest towards that given EU institution.

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

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