Codecision and national parliamentary scrutiny - European Union Committee Contents



1.  Codecision is the European Union legislative procedure whereby a proposal from the European Commission is negotiated and adopted jointly by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. Under codecision the Parliament and the Council enjoy equal powers; neither can adopt a legislative act without the agreement of the other[1].

2.  The procedure was introduced in the 1993 Maastricht Treaty. Since then the treaties of Amsterdam (1999) and Nice (2003) have expanded the areas which are subject to codecision to 44. The Lisbon Treaty would expand these areas significantly further into areas including agriculture, fisheries, justice and home affairs and the budget. The Treaty would also rename codecision the Ordinary Legislative Procedure and make very small changes to the procedure itself[2].

Our inquiry

3.  For some time the perception has been that the codecision procedure makes it harder to conduct effective parliamentary scrutiny. We decided to conduct our inquiry to test this and, where appropriate, to consider updating our scrutiny procedures and practices. In addition we make a number of recommendations to the Government relating to the information they provide to us. For simplicity's sake we collate these updates and recommendations in Chapter 3.

4.  The members of the Select Committee which conducted this inquiry are listed at Appendix 1. During this inquiry we have taken oral evidence from the then Minister for Europe, the UK and French Deputy Permanent Representatives to the European Union, two UK MEPs, and staff of the Commission, Council and European Parliament. We also received written evidence from a number of interested parties. The full list of those who gave evidence is printed at Appendix 2; the evidence itself is printed with this report. We wish to thank all of them for taking the time to send us their views.

5.  We have also sought the views and practical experience of our own sub-committees. These are printed at Appendix 4.

6.  The primary aim of this report is to present ways in which parliamentary scrutiny of negotiations on European legislation could be improved. In this respect interest in this House in our report may well be limited to those serving on our Committee and sub-committees. Nonetheless we make this report for debate. In addition we anticipate that there will be interest in this report from those who perform a similar function to us in the other national parliaments of the EU.

How codecision works—the procedures as laid down in the Treaties

7.  The codecision procedure itself is a framework for negotiations between the Council and the European Parliament set out in Articles 250 and 251 TEC[3].

8.  The procedure allows for a maximum of three parallel stages in the European Parliament and Council called first reading, second reading and conciliation/third reading. The 1999 Amsterdam Treaty introduced the possibility for the procedure to be completed, and for a proposal to be adopted, in fewer than three readings. So, unlike the UK system, where a Bill must complete all its stages to become an Act, if the Council and Parliament reach agreement earlier in the process the legislation is adopted without recourse to the remaining stages.

9.  Here we first set out the formal steps of the codecision procedure (Figure 1 sets them out in flow chart form) before reviewing the evidence we have received on how the procedure now works in practice.

Some jargon simplified—part one

The Council Presidency consists of the ministers and officials of the Member State which chairs all the meetings of the Council. The Presidency rotates every six months.

A Council Working Group is the first level at which negotiations are held in the Council on Commission proposals. A working group is attended by specialist officials from each of the Member States and is staffed by the General Secretariat of the Council. There are some 250 working groups.

A Rapporteur is the Member of the European Parliament appointed to draft the Parliament's report. The same rapporteur will work on all three readings of a legislative proposal.

Shadow rapporteurs are appointed by their political groups to follow the work of the rapporteur and to lead for their group on discussions on a proposal. Often there will be shadow rapporteurs appointed by all the main groups other than the group which appointed the rapporteur.

The General Approach is the first public expression of the views of the Council on a legislative proposal from the Commission. It usually lists the changes that the Council is likely to make to the proposal.

The Common Position is the text produced as a result of the Council's first reading of a proposal by which time the Council has usually had the opportunity to consider the Parliament's first reading position.

Conciliation is the mechanism by which the Parliament and Council meet together, prior to third reading, with the aim of producing a draft of a legislative proposal which is acceptable to both.

The Joint Text is the draft of the legislative proposal agreed in the Conciliation meeting. It must be adopted at third reading by both the Parliament and Council to become law.


10.  First reading is of the Proposal as presented by the Commission to the European Parliament and Council. There are no formal time limits to this stage so the speed of the negotiations depends on political impetus coming, usually, from the Council Presidency.

11.  As it takes time for the European Parliament to take decisions on which members and committees will lead on the Proposal, the Council is usually able to begin work first. The relevant Council working group (made up of officials from the national representations) begins work with a view to producing a "General Approach". This indicates the Council's views on the Proposal and the changes that the Council is likely to make to it.

12.  In the Parliament a member (or, on occasions, more than one member) is appointed to act as rapporteur. The rapporteur is responsible for taking the proposal though all its stages in the Parliament. This begins with drafting a report containing amendments to the Proposal for the rapporteur's committee to consider, amend and agree. Where possible this also lists amendments that would be required to the Council's General Approach. Once the committee has agreed the report, it is debated, amended (where necessary) and adopted in Plenary. This completes first reading in the Parliament.

13.  The amendments the Parliament wishes to make to the Proposal are then considered by the Council in its first reading. At this point the Council has two options. First, it can approve the Parliament's amendments and adopt the act ("First reading agreement"—see below). Second, it can disagree with some or all of the Parliament's amendments, or propose its own, different amendments. In this case the Council adopts a "Common Position" (so called because it reflects the common view of the Member States in the Council, not because it reflects a common position between the Council and Parliament).


14.  Second reading must be completed within six months, extendible to eight. It begins with the Parliament considering the Council's Common Position[4].

15.  On the basis of a report from the rapporteur, the Parliament's second reading can (i) approve the Common Position and adopt the Proposal as set out there ("Early second reading agreement"—see below); (ii) reject the Common Position entirely, in which case the Proposal falls; or (iii) adopt amendments to the Common Position.

16.  Where the Parliament has chosen to amend the Common Position, its amendments are considered at the Council's second reading. At this stage the Council can approve all Parliament's amendments and adopt the Proposal accordingly. If the Council is unable to agree all the Parliament's amendments the process moves to conciliation/third reading.


17.  Third reading must be completed within 18 weeks, extendible to 24, of the Council's second reading.

18.  The aim is to produce a "Joint Text": a draft of the legislative proposal which is acceptable to both the Parliament and the Council. Initially this is done through informal three-way meetings, or trilogues, between the Parliament, Council and Commission. At a trilogue the Parliament is usually represented by a delegation including the rapporteur; the Council by the current Presidency's Permanent (or Deputy Permanent) Representative; and the Commission by the relevant Director General.

19.  When appropriate (for example, when agreement is thought to be close) a formal conciliation committee meeting is held. Here representatives from each of the 27 Member States attend on the Council's side. They are matched by an equal number of MEPs. The meeting is co-chaired by the minister of the Presidency country and a vice president of the Parliament.

20.  Any Joint Text agreed in a conciliation committee has to be approved, at third reading, by the Council and the Parliament. If no agreement is possible, or either Institution fails to approve the result of the conciliation, the proposal falls.

The Codecision Procedure—flowchart

How codecision works—the practice

21.  As the Parliament and Council have become familiar with codecision the way they use the procedure has changed. Importantly, there has been a trend towards shortening the legislative process through (i) an increase in first reading agreements, and (ii) the development of early second reading agreements. As the Commission puts it, first reading agreements have "gradually become the norm [with] more than 70% of files now concluded" at that stage (p 79)[5].

22.  The recommended procedures for achieving agreement at these earlier stages are set out in a June 2007 Joint Declaration by the Parliament, Council and Commission on "Practical Arrangements for the Codecision Procedure"[6].

Some jargon simplified—part two

First reading agreement is where the amendments to the Proposal in the Parliament's first reading report are all agreed by the Council at its first reading.

Early second reading agreement is similar except that the agreement between the Council and Parliament is reflected in the Council's Common Position rather than the Parliament's first reading report. This may be because a compromise was reached between the two only after Parliament had adopted its first reading report[7].


23.  According to Dr Charlotte Burns from the School of Politics and International Studies at the University of Leeds, the Amsterdam Treaty introduced the possibility for agreement at first or second reading to "speed up decision making particularly on policies where there was no substantial disagreement between the European Parliament and Council or where the proposals concerned were merely technical" (p 76). However, Klaus Baier from the European Parliament's codecision secretariat told us that in the current legislature (ending on 14 July 2009) almost 400 legislative acts were adopted under codecision of which 69 per cent were concluded at first reading (Q 125). Furthermore, as recent high profile examples such as the Climate Change Package[8] show, early agreements are now sought on important and controversial proposals.

24.  Indeed, the 2007 Joint Declaration encourages the Institutions to "cooperate in good faith with a view to reconciling their positions as far as possible so that, wherever possible, acts can be adopted at first reading"[9]. However, as we heard from Anthony Teasdale, Head of Strategy and Political Bodies in the Cabinet of the President of the European Parliament, "people have been slightly startled by the speed and intensity" of the take-up of opportunities for earlier agreement (Q 130). There are suggestions that it is by no means certain that the Parliament will continue to pursue so many early deals when it returns to legislative work after the elections.

25.  The Conference of Presidents in the Parliament estimates that early second reading agreements now account for half of all second reading agreements[10].

How these deals occur—informal trilogues

26.  In practice, first readings in the Council and Parliament which make the same changes to the Commission's Proposal do not happen by accident. Rather, the Council, the Parliament and the Commission meet in an "informal trilogue" to negotiate an acceptable text. As Philippe Léglise-Costa, French Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, put it: "the real negotiation takes place in the trilogue" (Q 81). The deal arising from this negotiation is then presented to the Council and Parliament for their votes.

Some jargon simplified—part three

Informal trilogues are private meetings between representatives of the European Parliament, Council and Commission which take place at each stage of the codecision procedure. Contrary to popular belief these meetings are not small. Although numbers vary, usually they are attended by the Parliament's rapporteur, shadow rapporteurs and support staff, staff from the Council Presidency and staff from the Commission. In total there may be some 20 to 40 people in attendance. They are a vital part of the codecision procedure because they allow frank, face-to-face discussions between those leading on the Proposal under discussion from each of the Institutions. But, as M Léglise-Costa told us, they are preceded by even more informal contacts between the rapporteur and Presidency at which the real decisions can be made: "there is a lot of preparation before the actual negotiation in order to assess with the Parliament ... what is the right way to proceed" (Q 83). In terms of a record, the Parliament requires a report back to the responsible committee. We understand that the Council Secretariat produces a summary of the discussions which it circulates to the Representations of the Member States.

COREPER is the regular meeting, at ambassador level, of representatives of the Member States. This is where many of the decisions relating to European legislation and policy are taken, before being approved at ministerial meetings. There are two formats: COREPER 1 which is attended by Deputy Permanent Representatives and currently handles most codecision, and COREPER 2 which is attended by the Permanent Representatives.

Committee coordinators are those members of the Parliament's committees who, rather like whips in the Westminster system, run the business of the committee. Typically there will be a coordinator from each political group.


27.  Trilogues, as the primary forum for negotiation, are attended by a surprisingly large number of people. M Léglise-Costa told us that for the Council there will usually be "the President of COREPER, assisted by staff of his own representation and the Secretariat of the Council and Legal Service of the Council": typically this would be some ten people (Q 81).

28.  Representation from the Commission would, for important negotiations, be of a similar size and headed by the relevant Director General.

29.  The European Parliament has agreed a Code of Conduct for negotiating codecision files[11] which makes clear that the responsible committee should take the "decision on the composition of the EP negotiating team" and that "political balance shall be respected"[12]. Arlene McCarthy MEP, chairman of the Parliament's Internal Market Committee and veteran of many trilogues, told us that for her committee this means that she always leads negotiations on behalf of the Parliament because as chairman she is responsible for taking "forward the result of the Committee vote". Usually she would be accompanied by the rapporteur, shadow rapporteurs, committee coordinators, Parliament staff and staff working for the political groups (Q 234).


30.  For the Council's part, the formal position is set out in the written evidence from the General Secretariat: trilogue negotiations "begin only after each Institution has established internally its own negotiating position". However the Secretariat also recognise the possibility for "informal or exploratory contacts" between the Presidency, the Parliament and the Commission (p 86). In addition there are "bilateral meetings with, for instance, the Presidency and the Parliament" (Q 191). In these the Presidency cannot "commit the Council to anything that has not yet been formally mandated by COREPER" (p 86).

31.  In practice, as we heard from M Léglise-Costa, these informal contacts are frequent and extensive: the rapporteur and he "spent a lot of time assessing the position in the Council and in the Parliament ... what to propose to COREPER, what to say, how to transmit a document to the Parliament a bit ahead of the trilogue, how to organise the trilogue, what the rapporteur would say, what I can answer to that in order to progress and what other members from the other parties would understand from that and how to conclude at the end of the trilogue" (Q 84).

32.  In terms of accountability, M Legal told us that after every trilogue meeting "there is always precise feedback to the delegations [viz. the Permanent Representations] by the Presidency on how the negotiations have been conducted" (Q 194). This would be either to the working group, where the trilogue was organised at that level, or to COREPER where it was attended by the Deputy Permanent Representative.

33.  For the European Parliament the Code of Conduct requires that "in general, the amendments adopted in committee or in plenary shall form the basis of the mandate for the EP negotiating team". In addition, the negotiating team is required to "report back to the committee on the outcome of the negotiations and make all text distributed available to the committee". Should this not be possible, "for timing reasons [only]", a report must be circulated to the shadow rapporteurs and committee coordinators instead. Arlene McCarthy told us that she took it on herself to report the results of a trilogue back to the committee coordinators (Q 234).

34.  Professor Simon Hix, from the London School of Economics, told us that since 2004 "94 percent of codecision bills (201 out of 219 agreements) were discussed via the informal trilogue procedure before open deliberations and votes could take place in committee" (p 92). However, Jonathan Dancourt-Cavanagh, from the General Secretariat of the Council, reinforced the importance that the Parliament places on ensuring that a rapporteur has a mandate before beginning negotiations: he assured us that in his "experience of over 100 codecision negotiations it is very rare for the Parliament to seriously commence a negotiation before the Committee has voted in first reading" (Q 202).


35.  When the Council itself meets its deliberations on acts to be adopted under codecision must be open to the public[13] as must the results and explanations of votes and any statements made in the minutes of proceedings[14]. Non-confidential documents are available to all on the Council's public register. All other supporting documents are available internally and to the national administrations of the Member States through their Permanent Representations and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs.

36.  All this has not prevented a tide of criticism over a perceived lack of transparency in the Council's deliberations. As Richard Corbett MEP points out, "even if the Council itself now meets in public when finalising legislation, COREPER proceedings, conciliation meetings and trilogue talks are behind closed doors" (p 59). In practice this means that publicly accessible deliberation in the Council on codecided legislation is usually limited to ministers formally approving the results agreed in private meetings only. Added to this is what Professor Hix describes as "incomplete access to legislative deliberations of Ministerial meetings of the Council" (p 93). All this means that there is no public access to trilogues, nor to discussions at which the mandates for informal trilogues are agreed, nor where the Presidency reports back on them.

37.  In contrast, European Parliament committee meetings are, almost without exception, open to the public (Q 126). Meetings of committee coordinators are, however, held in private.

Implications for national parliaments seeking to keep abreast of negotiations

38.  Much of the evidence we have received suggests that both the codecision procedure itself and these trends in codecision practice make it harder for national parliaments to follow the procedure. The points raised most often are that:

  • Codeciding legislation can mean that a proposal will change substantially from the Commission's initial text: it is therefore not sufficient for us only to scrutinise the proposal proposed by the Commission;
  • Agreement at first or early second reading hinders scrutiny;
  • The speed at which legislation is adopted is too fast to enable effective scrutiny; and
  • The use of informal trilogues is not conducive to effective scrutiny.

39.  We consider each of these in turn.


40.  Richard Corbett's evidence to us is clear that the codecision procedure can, and does, make substantial changes to a proposal. He told us that "the Commission proposal really is a first draft and is almost always amended" (p 59). In his view this means that "national parliamentary deliberations must be couched in [terms of] responding to the initial proposal" (p 59), suggesting improvements and setting down limits on what would be acceptable. This is the approach taken by, for example, the French Sénat who communicate their position "quickly and as early as possible after the presentation of the legislative proposal" to their government (p 90).

41.  The value of commenting at the earliest possible stage has been made clear to us by many of those we have spoken to. Una O'Dwyer, Acting Director of Legislation in the Commission's Secretariat General, told us that the "pre-legislative phase" is most important (Q 154).

42.  However, commenting on the initial proposal only is rejected by Dr Helle Krunke, Associate Professor at the University of Copenhagen's Faculty of Law. Dr Krunke's argument is that, because "quite extensive alterations" can be made during codecision negotiations, giving national parliaments the ability to scrutinise proposals only at the beginning of the procedure "can undermine the quality/effectiveness of parliamentary scrutiny" (p 105).

43.  Our own experiences of scrutiny reinforce Dr Krunke's view. When Sub-Committee F was scrutinising the proposed Returns Directive, it was faced with the situation where the Council and Parliament were holding negotiations on the basis of a significantly different document to that which had originally been scrutinised[15]. The Sub-Committee did not have access to this document. The initial Proposal, presented in September 2005, had proved controversial and had been dormant for much of 2006 and 2007. However, the Slovenian Presidency in the first six months of 2008 had revived the Proposal and restarted informal trilogue talks which resulted in the adoption of a text which, in the words of the Government, "developed along lines different than [sic] those originally proposed"[16]. In this situation it was clearly not effective that our committee was forced to rely on scrutiny of the Commission's original Proposal only.


44.  Whilst it is important that our scrutiny procedures enable us to give our views promptly on the Commission's Proposal, we do not accept that our scrutiny of codecided legislation should be limited to commenting at this stage alone. The fact that we clear an initial proposal from scrutiny does not mean that we should not scrutinise it again if changes with policy implications occur during codecision. The Government must provide us with sufficient information on changes and proposed changes to proposals to allow us to comment before UK Ministers agree to them.


45.  Professor Simon Hix, from the London School of Economics, noted that whilst legislative debates used to span several readings with formal debates held in Council and Parliament, currently legislation was adopted via "a deal between a small group of MEPs and the Council Presidency ... and then rubber stamped". As a result, "full scrutiny by MEPs, let alone by national parliaments or the wider public, is increasingly difficult" (p 93).

46.  His point is that, for a proposal adopted after conciliation, versions of or amendments to it would be formally available as follows:

    (1)  The Commission's original proposal;
    (2)  Council General Approach;
    (3)  European Parliament first reading;
    (4)  Council Common Position;
    (5)  Parliament second reading;
    (6)  Council second reading; and
    (7)  Conciliation Joint Text (which represents the agreement).

47.  But for a proposal adopted at first reading this is diminished dramatically. Only the Commission's proposal and the Council's General Approach are available for comment before the agreed text is presented in the Parliament's and Council's first readings. For Anthony Teasdale, from the Cabinet of the President of the Parliament, this means that the "paper trail disappears" (Q 135).

48.  Even Richard Corbett, who is perhaps the strongest supporter of the codecision procedure we have heard from, acknowledged that second and third readings made national parliamentary scrutiny potentially easier and that first reading agreements "limit" the "advantage" national parliaments have (p 59). Una O'Dwyer felt that "second reading negotiations do give everybody within and outside the institutions a better handle on the negotiations" (Q 147). This is a particularly important observation given that early agreements are now reached on proposals which raise complex issues rather than those restricted to technical adjustments.


49.  Whilst we recognise that the reduction in the number of readings to which a proposal is subjected speeds up the process of lawmaking, diminishing the number of versions which are made available and debated in public and which are deposited by the Government for parliamentary scrutiny can and does have an impact on the ability of national parliaments to scrutinise changes made to proposals during negotiations.


50.  Professor Hix's evidence is clear that "legislation is now passed at a significantly quicker pace". His research indicates that in 2000-01 codecided legislation was passed in an average of 686 days, whilst in 2006-07 the average was a mere 206 days (p 92). Whilst he saw this as hindering parliamentary scrutiny others use this as evidence of more efficient lawmaking by the EU. Una O'Dwyer, for example, told us that "we all want the best and most efficient deals possible and, therefore ... it is not really a question of having fewer first reading deals"(Q 147).

51.  It is not the absolute length of time from adoption of a proposal by the Commission to agreement in Parliament and Council that is the biggest problem. Rather, timing issues arise when negotiations are bunched together over a short period. Typically this is driven by the Council and occurs towards the end of a six-month Presidency as the Member State in the chair strives to reach as many agreements as possible so as to succeed on what Anthony Teasdale referred to as the "Presidency Scorecard" (Q 135).

52.  The European Parliament has recognised the importance of allowing sufficient time for all its members to assess a trilogue deal before voting on it in plenary. The Parliament has agreed a Code of Conduct that advises that a "cooling off period" (Q 127) be inserted between the Committee and plenary votes. For Anthony Teasdale this is "to ensure that the political groups and the plenary as a whole has an adequate opportunity to reflect upon whether the balance struck in the negotiation [in the informal trilogues] is one they can in fact endorse"(Q 137). The Parliament's Conference of Presidents had recommended that the "cooling off period" should normally be one month.


53.  We do not see a case for a general slowing of the pace of negotiations on codecided legislation. In the exceptional cases where legislation is adopted too quickly to allow us to scrutinise it effectively, it is open to us to make this case to the Government. Where this happens we would expect them to refuse to lift their scrutiny reserve until national parliamentary scrutiny is complete.

54.  However, where the majority of discussions take place in informal trilogues, we see the tendency to hold a series of trilogues on a single proposal in quick succession as creating difficulties for national parliaments and others seeking to follow negotiations. This appears to us to be a consequence of the rotating six-month Presidency system. In this respect the introduction of the Permanent President of the European Council by the Lisbon Treaty will have no effect as the European Council does not legislate and the rotating Presidency will continue to set the agenda with regard to the majority of codecided legislation. We urge the Government to ensure that an arrangement similar to the cooling off period provided for by the Parliament's Code of Conduct is applied to lessen the difficulties often faced by those seeking to follow the negotiations on legislative proposals at the end of a Presidency.


55.  Davor Janèiæ, PhD candidate at Utrecht University and visiting fellow at Sciences Politiques, Paris, argued that because informal trilogues "lack visibility both to the public and to the parliamentary institutions" they could impede national parliaments' ability to scrutinise the agreements reached (p 98). This is, in general, backed up by those national parliaments we have heard from.

56.  In Denmark the use of informal trilogues has made it increasingly "more difficult for the Danish Government to determine when exactly ministers should appear before the European Affairs Committee and obtain a negotiation mandate" (p 107). In The Netherlands, the confidential nature of first and second reading deals "can make it hard" for both the government and the national parliament to "control the process" (p 94). This is complicated by the lack of "standard reporting procedures" from informal trilogues (p 94). In Finland the problem is slightly different: pressure put on the Council to agree deals made in informal trilogues requires "a reassessment at short notice of a national position that may have been the result of careful and lengthy deliberation. The Eduskunta is simply faced with a document (that the government may or may not support) and told that Finland has the option of approving it immediately, or being outvoted" (p 109).

57.  Arlene McCarthy told us that even in the European Parliament there had been complaints "that there was not enough transparency, that people did not understand what was going on, that the pace was sometimes very fast" (Q 245). To counter this, the Code of Conduct includes rules requiring detailed oral reports back to the responsible committee and the provision of supporting documents to MEPs. We receive summaries of these reports via our EU Liaison Officer in Brussels; they can be a useful way to follow negotiations.

58.  The experiences of our sub-committees reinforce the view that informal trilogues are often too opaque. Sub-Committee D, on environment and agriculture, reports that "the emerging consensus between the European Parliament and Council can be almost impossible to determine. Updates from the Government are usually too infrequent, and negotiations proceed too rapidly and opaquely for accurate tracking of the inter-institutional negotiations". It gives the example of the proposal for a directive on stage II petrol vapour recovery during refuelling of passenger cars at service stations[17]. This is a case of particularly poor information from a Department: the Explanatory Memorandum was submitted two months after the Commission had adopted the Proposal; an updating letter was received a month later stating that the Institutions "appear agreed on fast-tracking this proposal" but providing no further details; finally a supplementary explanatory memorandum was submitted on 1 May noting the rapid progress of negotiations and that agreement was expected at the beginning of May.

59.  Conversely, in some cases the information provided by the Government has greatly assisted the Committee in following the negotiations in informal trilogues. Sub-Committee G, on social policy and consumer affairs, scrutinised a proposal on the organisation of working time (commonly known as the Working Time Directive)[18]. As part of the sub-committee's scrutiny the Government provided (i) "substantial" information during the UK Presidency, including a summary of the proposed compromise; (ii) informal briefing to officials before sub-committee meetings during the UK Presidency; and (iii) the texts of the Portuguese and Slovene draft Presidency compromise texts.


60.  We consider that informal trilogues, whilst helpful to expeditious agreement of legislation, make effective scrutiny of codecided legislation by national parliaments very difficult. There are two reasons for this:

    (a)  Their informal and confidential nature is not transparent: as a result it is difficult for us to follow the course of negotiations and comment usefully to the Government; and

    (b)  The Council is represented only by the Presidency which tends to hold its cards close to its chest: as a result it may be difficult for all governments other than the Presidency to follow the course of negotiations and to represent the views of their national parliament at the appropriate point.

61.  The increased use of informal trilogues to the point that they are now the primary form of negotiation between the European Parliament and the Council has magnified the difficulties we face. As a result it is important that the system under which the Government keeps us updated on negotiations is effective and operated uniformly and rigorously by all Departments. The Government must ensure that this happens without the delays that have sometimes occurred in the past.

62.  Should the Lisbon Treaty come into force, these difficulties will be magnified by the expansion of codecision into new areas: notably agriculture, fisheries and justice and home affairs. Departments that will gain responsibility for negotiating codecided legislation must devise and put in place effective systems for ensuring Parliament is fully kept up to date. This must be done in good time to ensure that they are ready to do so properly as soon as and when the Lisbon Treaty comes into force.

63.  We turn to these systems in the next chapter.

1   For example, the European Parliament rejected proposed legislation on the liberalisation of port services (in 2003) and on the harmonisation of laws on takeover bids (2001) at third reading. Back

2   As outlined by Hubert Legal of the Council Legal Service at Q 203. Back

3   Treaty establishing the European Community. Back

4   This would be changed slightly by the Lisbon Treaty. See Q 203. Back

5   Appended to the Commission's written evidence are lists of all legislative proposals concluded at each stage since the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty. There have been 438 agreements after first reading, 277 after second reading and 109 after conciliation Back

6   OJ 2007/C145/02. Also appended to the Commission's written evidence to our inquiry. Back

7   ibid. paras 12 ff Back

8   COM (2008) 30 Back

9   Op cit paragraph 11 Back

10   Second interim report of the European Parliament's Working Party on Parliamentary Reform: "Legislative activities and Interinstitutional relations" p 25 Back

11   See Appendix 5 Back

12   Code of Conduct heading 3 Back

13   Article 8 of the Council's Rules of Procedure Back

14   Ibid. Article 9 Back

15   See Appendix 4 Back

16   EM 10737/08 Back

17   COM (2008)812 Back

18   COM (2004)607 Back

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