The European Parliament is considering introducing ‘ad hoc’ committees with lawmaking powers for “legislative proposals falling within the competence of more than three committees”, according to a document seen by EURACTIV.
The document is part of Parliament’s internal procedure to reform its committee structure, which would radically change the way it legislates.
The main idea driving the reform is to solve regular conflicts of competencies among the current ‘standing committees’ and make EU policymaking more efficient.
While the Parliament already has ‘temporary special’ committees for specific topics, they only manage reports, resolutions, and other procedures initiated by MEPs – and not legislative procedures.
However, the reform faces multiple challenges, such as how to distribute powers among MEPs involved in legislation, alongside how to manage the reform discussions ahead of next June’s European elections, as many MEPs will switch their focus onto their campaigns for re-election.
With this proposal, the ‘ad hoc’ committee would assume the same powers as the standing committees.
The committees are at the core of the European Parliament’s power in legislative processes, with MEPs appointed as committee chairs or rapporteurs on individual files typically playing a key role in drafting and negotiating laws.
When the European Commission – the only EU institution that can initiate a legislative process – publishes a new proposal, the Parliament and national ministers act as co-legislators on the file.
In the Parliament, the Conference of Committee Chairs (CCC), an internal body, decides which committee, or committees, take the lead role on the file.
Once all positions are reached by MEPs and ministers, the three bodies hash out their differences in approach through interinstitutional negotiations – the so-called ‘trilogues’ – to reach a common position. Once a final agreement is reached, it is confirmed by a vote with the two co-legislators.
The ad hoc committee scope
Within the current framework, the temporary committees without legislative powers are usually only created in reaction to exceptional circumstances, such as a major scandal or crisis.
For instance, the committee on surveillance spyware (PEGA) was created in the wake of media revelations that journalists, political opponents and other figures were spied on by some EU governments, such as Spain and Greece.
The special committee on foreign interference (ING2) became more important during the current legislative mandate following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The committee on COVID-19 (COVI) played a key role in gathering lessons learned from the global pandemic.
According to the document, the Conference of Presidents (CoP), the body where the Parliament’s leaders and political groups’ presidents gather, will be charged with making the decision on whether to form the committee, following the CCC‘s recommendations.
A Committee ‘cluster’ for each Commission VP
The proposal also envisages the possibility of “grouping” standing committees by “policy areas in committee clusters”, which are non-permanent formations with no legislative powers that aim to facilitate cooperation between committees.
The clusters, which would be defined at the start of each legislative term, will not be permanent formations but “activated on a need-only basis”, the document explains.
The main duties of the clusters would be hosting public hearings of “cross-cutting nature”, including those with the “(EU) Commission’s vice-presidents-designate” and scrutiny of their work, managing “horizontal non-legislative activities”, together with political discussions and workshops with many different committees topics involved.
The goal of the cluster, according to the document, is “to facilitate a coherent approach across policy areas and packages of intertwined legislation”.
As a consequence, the cluster would replace the temporary special committees with no legislative power, the document proposes.
“The proliferation of formal ad-hoc structures without legislative powers results in additional layers of complexity in Parliament’s internal working methods,” the document states, specifying that the work of these temporary committees often overlaps with competencies of standing committees.
If there is a need for a specific report on a “horizontal, cross-cutting” issue, “the task could instead be referred to the relevant committee cluster,” the document explains.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Gerardo Fortuna/Nathalie Weatherald]
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