April 30, 2015
The Commissions’ draft interinstitutional agreement: good intentions but it does not meet the real needs
Successive delays in the publication of the draft interinstitutional agreement (IIA) have inevitably led to leaks. With interservice consultations underway, the text is being commented on and validated before its expected submission to the College of Commissioners on 19 May. Thus, over recent weeks, we have gained an insight into the draft that will be submitted to the European Parliament and the Council, with final adoption expected by Christmas 2015.
Visually speaking, the text is complicated by the fact that there is not one, but several documents: a number of Commission communications on better regulation, the proposal for a future IIA with many sections (stakeholder consultations, criteria for distinguishing delegated and implementing acts, transparency, etc) as well as annexes on a ‘Regulatory Scrutiny Board’ and a new ‘REFIT Platform’.
Avoiding real issues
This package does have some good intentions. Clarifying the distinction between delegated and implementing acts is positive, as is the goal of making the role of expert groups systematic in consultations on draft delegated acts, as well as involving the EP more. Also interesting are the proposals to consult stakeholders and draw up indicative lists of delegated acts planned to be adopted in the future. It is better than nothing, but at the end of the day the system will remain the same, with its complexity, opacity and casebycase management.
The Regulatory Scrutiny Board (replacing the Commission’s internal Impact Assessment Board) and the creation of a REFIT Platform (a forum of member states and stakeholders that will assess the
regulatory fitness of EU legislation) equally represent good intentions. But ultimately they will make the process even more burdensome and less operational. The Commission is constantly adding extra layers to a cake that is already very thick. The proposed changes to impact assessments are notable: every institution would have its own framework of impact assessment, overseen by a coordinating interinstitutional body.
Could we have hoped for better?
The Commission is playing things safe, not taking any risks and avoiding provoking a fullon confrontation with the EP and/or the Council. But it is also conscious of protecting as much as
possible the prerogatives it obtained under the Lisbon Treaty. Given how urgent and acute the problems are, this is a lowrisk approach, lacking in ambition and vision.
Could it be otherwise? In all honesty, no. The Commission is not capable of remedying defects that are undermining the EU from within. In particular, successive treaty reforms have never addressed the key questions: defining the goal of the EU (federal system or free trade area?), its boundary (expanding how far?) and how to simplify it. On these three crucial issues, the result has been fiasco.
Another ongoing source of blockage is the excessive number of commissioners, diluting the Commission’s political power and strengthening its bureaucratic character. With such a college,
regardless of the ability of its members, can we expect anything more than a lumbering beast, based
on the lowest common denominator and ineffective governance?
EU legislative agenda is empty
Recently, a news agency reported that a number of important health files (eg alcohol labelling, endocrine disruptors, fatty acids) have been delayed due to the multiplication of decision makers at the highest level of the Commission, leading to de facto paralysis. This has been going on for six months now. Some interest groups might be delighted the Commission has forgotten about them, but this legislative void, mixed with growing delays and inefficiency, gives me a deep feeling of anxiety.