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Neyts-Uyttebroeck Annemie, European Parliament, Institutional Committee - 19 dicembre 1994
EP 1996: political and administrative control


Prepared by: Ms. Annemie NEYTS-UYTTEBROECK

SUMMARY: The scope of this working document is to point out the possible institutional changes that could be made in 1996 that would strengthen political and administrative control in the EU.

The Council and the European Council are not subject to any form of direct political control; as to the Commission the censure of the EP is the ultimate instrument of control, but it is too radical to be really effective on everyday decisions; the creation of specialised bodies and agencies at european level made this situation even worse. The draftwoman presents a variety of options, arguing that first of all it is necessary to introduce in the Treaty an article on the public and open nature of Union's acts, thus establishing a general principle of openness. Council: formalize the reports to the Parliament on the model of the European Council reports; the legislative program, today binding only EP and Commission, should committ also the Council; Commission: the investiture of the Commission should evolve into a fully fledged "advice and consent" procedure; the right for individual censure of Commissioners should be considered. Furthermore, the committees of inquiry and the ombudsman should be strengthened.

(EP, Brussels, 19 December 1994)

I. Introduction

If the EU is to work properly and is to gain the confidence of its citizens, political and administrative control of EU activities is one of the main instruments of verification of the effectiveness and fairness of already decided EU policies. Political control especially, has an even more important function to fulfil, namely that of ensuring the accountability of the political bodies involved, and that of providing the necessary checks and balances between the different political bodies. The European Parliament will thus have to return again and again to this vast subject, and will have to reorganise its own work and structures in consequence. The scope of this working document, however, is a more limited one, namely to explore the possible institutional changes that might be made in the 1996 IGC that would strengthen political and administrative control at EU level. Moreover, the sensitive problems of political control of second and third pillar matters and of budgetary control and fraud fall within the sc

ope of other working documents, and are not covered here.

A further preliminary remark is that this document covers problems of control in the current institutional context. As the IGC negotiations proceed, and if the institutional context evolves, the problems of control that are outlined below might have to be posed in different terms (the situation would be very different, for instance, if the Council were to evolve into a true second legislative chamber).

The present working document first outlines the main problems posed by political and administrative control at EU level, and then examines some of the areas in which institutional changes might help to resolve these problems.

II. The problems

1. Problems of political control

Among several others of lesser importance in the scope of this document, three important problems as regards political control at EU level can be identified:

(i) As EU bodies in their own right, the European Council and the Council are subject to no form whatsoever of direct political control. Their individual members are subject to indirect control by their national parliaments, but one might argue that this hardly compensates for the total absence of any possibility to control both bodies as bodies.

The question of control of the European Council, and of the Council in particular, is a complicated and delicate matter because the Council exercises executive as well as legislative functions (e.g. Commitology). When acting as a branch of the legislature, the Council should not be subject to other forms of control than is the case for a parliament. But its proceedings should then be open, if not outright public, as is the case for parliaments. The closed and secretive nature of proceedings, when it is acting as a legislature, is completely unacceptable. When acting as executive bodies, however, the Council and the European Council should be subject to political control, as pointed out, no such control exists.

It is essential for control purposes that a clear distinction is made between the Council acting as a legislator and the Council acting in other capacities.

(ii) The ultimate form of political control on the Commission (once it has been initially invested by the European Parliament) is by means of censure of the Commission as a College by the European Parliament. This is too radical a step to be an effective everyday instrument of control. In many specific policy areas where the Commission has considerable power (like competition policy) control mechanisms are inadequate.

(iii) The creation of new agencies at EU level (as agreed at the Edinburgh summit), for which no common framework was provided, makes the task of political control even more diffuse and complicated. This situation would worsen if more of the Commission's functions were to be transferred to "independent" or other agencies unless new forms of control were to be developed.

2. Problems of administrative control

(i) Administrative control of EU matters is currently carried out by both the Commission (the general functioni

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