September 2, 2013
European Commission, The Lisbon Treaty
What influences the European Commission
Hi, my name is Andras Baneth and I am the co-founder and Director of the European Training Academy.
Today, I’m going to speak about a question that is on the mind of hundreds if not thousands of people dealing with EU affairs, and this is the following:
What or who influences the European Commission? The European Commission being or having the sole right of initiative, meaning that whatever European legislation we talk about, it is only and exclusively the European Commission that can propose laws, directives or regulations in that field given this very strong power of the European Commission, trade associations, diplomatic bodies, private companies, even members of the European Parliament are extremely keen on convincing.
If you would like to lobby the European Commission to launch a new initiative and legislate on a given matter, whether it’s genetically modified organisms, whether it’s restricting the import of shoes from Vietnam or imposing a certain fine on a large computer company, these are all decisions that the European Commission can take by itself on its own initiative. However, this doesn’t mean that the European Commission would be in an isolated black box and not listening to the world around it. The European Commission is actually influenced by a number of factors and organizations which I will give a few examples for right now.
One of these is obviously the European Parliament itself. The European Commission, that is, the College of Commissioners are approved and eventually appointed by the European Parliament. And this means that the European Commission is answerable to the European Parliament because it can revoke its confidence and it can make the Commission fail. So this provides a very strong political and practical incentive of all the European Commissioners to listen very carefully and answer to the Members of the European Parliament and the Parliament as a whole.
At the same time there are a many other factors that have a strong impact or influence on the Commission and one of them is pretty common sense: real life events. If we look at the financial crisis or we can say economic crisis, the European Commission was triggered into action because of the euro zone crisis, because of the economic crisis and it has a proposed a number of legislation to regulate financial markets, to regulate European banks, banking supervision, the financial services industry and so on and so on.
So real life events… that could also be, for instance, a tragedy that happened in Japan, in Fukushima, can trigger the Commission into launching so-called health check of the nuclear facilities in Europe. So there are a number of real life events that will certainly impact the Commission to decide and to start dealing with the given topic.
Obviously, all industries, companies, stakeholders in the widest sense would like to have the Commission legislate on the topic of interest to them, and that could be the safety of baby bottles all the way into imposing a fine on the solar panel imports from China.
Convincing the Commission, however, is a whole different matter because the European Commission itself, the individual Commissioners or its internal organization, heads of units, directors, and others, have a rather large room for their own individual assessments and decisions.
Whether they consider the political climate sufficiently mature, sufficiently right for action because it’s not only starting a legislative initiative but ideally it should be able to pass the vote of the European Parliament and the vote in the Council of Ministers.
Another factor influencing the Commission and triggering into action the European Commission is scientific progress. If I look at the security gates at airports, this has triggered that the Commission to revise its own safety regulations on which kind of electronic devices can be use in airports to detect people carrying guns or unauthorized objects and scientific progress in Biosciences, in Food Sciences, in any kind of social, natural sciences can trigger the need for new legislation and once this is in place, meaning the scientific achievements have been materialized to legal field, the regulatory field needs to make sure that these are properly regulated on a European level.
So these are also very important factors in getting the Commission to act, to propose a new food safety legislation, or to propose new laws on the recognition of certain diplomas in different member states.
Thank you very much for watching. This is Andras Baneth from the European Training Academy.