Understanding EU-decision making

Article written by Abigail Mizzi – Executive, MEUSAC
Published in The Malta Independent – 12.02.2020

The EU decision-making process is far from an easy, uncomplicated and straight-forward process. In fact, due to this, it remains a vague and abstract concept to many.  One must consider that the EU is made up of 27 Member States, seven institutions and 45 agencies. Not to mention the myriad of players involved in each institution and entity which makes up the EU. Each player has an important role in the EU mechanism; and they contribute, in one way or another, to the decision-making process which characterises the EU. However, in order to start breaking down this process, it is important to zoom onto the three main players:  the European Commission, the European Parliament (EP) and the Council of the European Union.

The decision-making process is typically initiated by the European Commission, which is considered as the executive arm of the European Union. One of the tasks of the Commission is to monitor as well as collect data and information on various important sectors of the EU such as the economy, industry and research, the environment and transport, just to mention a few.  The Commission then proposes new laws, or a revision of existing ones based on its findings.   For instance, in order to tackle plastic waste that has been accumulating in our seas and their disastrous environmental implications, the Commission proposed a new law which identifies measures to be taken to mitigate the effects of the problem.

After a law is proposed, it then boils down to the EP and the Council of the EU to agree on the proposal. This gives the EP and the Council of the EU the role of co-legislators- meaning that they both can agree, disagree or amend the Commission’s proposal as they deem fit.

Firstly, the EP and the Council of the EU both read and revise the proposal in their respective institutions, separately.  The EP is considered as the voice of the EU citizens, given that its members are elected democratically every five years in every Member State. The Council of the EU, on the other hand, is where Ministers sit to discuss laws, representing the Member States’ governments.

Once both the EP and the Council of the EU reach their own common position within their respective institutions, both institutions must agree on the final version of the legislation.  This might take weeks of negotiations between the EP and the Council of the EU until an agreement on how the proposed legislation should look like, is reached. When an agreement is achieved, the proposal becomes official EU legislation which needs to enter into force in each respective Member State.

It is important to note that, the co-legislators do not reach an informed and best-possible position on a proposed law on their own; this is only possible after numerous meetings conducted with experts, citizens, sector representatives. MEUSAC, as a Government agency plays a role in this process, since it consults with social partners, trade unions, NGOs and sector representatives on various EU proposals. The feedback gained from these consultation exercises is then fed to the government before it formulates its national position to be presented at the Council of the EU.

Therefore, should you require any further information regarding the decision-making process of the EU, or if you would like to discuss anything EU-related, we encourage you to get in touch with MEUSAC on 2200 3300 or via e-mail consult.meusac@gov.mt.

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