January 23, 2015
The European Parliament will table more resolutions to cast its veto in future; some will fail but others will succeed
Faced with this, lobbyists will have to adapt their strategies so they can act within a very short space of time.
The current EU institutional setting is quite paradoxical. On the one hand, reforms on ‘better regulation’ expected of the new EU executive are taking a while to materialise. Negotiations to
achieve a new interinstitutional agreement will undoubtedly be longer and less ambitious than we hoped.
But on the other hand, we are seeing changes in the way the EU decision making process operates. The veto is a case in point. As we have said many times, the veto is a somewhat virtual tool, often very difficult to use due to very short deadlines and the need to achieve an absolute majority in the European Parliament and a qualified majority in the Council. Events of recent weeks seem to have proven us partially wrong.
Nobody expected the fuel quality directive (FQD) implementing measure on calculation methodology to be blocked by an EP veto – but this is almost what happened. To the surprise of stakeholders, the EP’s ENVI committee tabled a resolution on 3 December 2014 proposing a veto and asking the plenary for a final vote two weeks later. In the end, the plenary rejected the veto, but only just. A majority of MEPs voted to block the measure, but not enough to achieve an absolute majority (result: 337 for a veto, 325 against, 48 abstentions).
FQD case: Food for thought and new prospects
First, it is obvious that the EP will table more resolutions to cast its veto in future. Some will fail but others will succeed. Faced with this, lobbyists will have to adapt their strategies so they can act within a very short space of time.
Secondly, arguments for encouraging the EP to vote for or against a veto request will not be exclusively technical (concerning the file), but also legal and procedural. This is exactly what
happened with the FQD.
Coming under the preLisbon regulatory procedure with scrutiny (RPS), the veto right was limited to three specific conditions (beyond the aim and content of the basic act, excess of implementing power, violation of subsidiarity or proportionality). These arguments were used just as much as the technical dimension to convince MEPs that the veto was not legally justified. The very small margins in the final vote suggest that such arguments had some influence.
Although the RPS is supposed to be phased out, the delay in alignment means that it will remain in force for the foreseeable future – and therefore the legal restrictions mentioned above will remain valid in many basic acts in the coming years.
From veto right to revocation right?
Since the Lisbon Treaty, there is not only the right to veto delegated acts but also the right to revoke the entire delegation granted to the Commission. Every basic legislative act provides that the EP or Council can revoke the Commission’s mandate under the same conditions as the veto right (although unlike the veto, there is no twomonth deadline; revocation can take place at any time). Until now, it seemed that the revocation of a mandate by the EP was not feasible as it was considered too aggressive, a sort of casus belli.
Now however, nothing is so sure and we can imagine that, following its audacity on the FQD, the EP might – over the next year – make a show of force by threatening to use its revocation right. A slowdown or failure in negotiations on the interinstitutional agreement would certainly provide the EP with an incentive in this sense.
Moreover, it should be remembered that for a number of basic legislative acts adopted after the Lisbon Treaty, the fiveyear delegation of power envisaged in those acts will very soon come to
expire. The decision to renew or not is up to the EP and Council, and there is every chance that either could have the opportunity to decide not to renew the delegation, in effect amounting to a revocation. The coming months promise to be interesting ones.