The laws of the European Union are based on the EU treaties which all member states have agreed to abide by.
The European Commission is responsible for proposing new laws and making sure they’re followed by each of the 27 member states. Here’s how it works:
- The Commission will come up with proposals following requests or lobbying from national governments, the European Parliament, The Council of the European Union or groups of citizens
- Proposals usually come in the form of a ‘green paper’ and are put forward for public consultation to ensure any interested parties can have their say
- After the consultation period the proposal may be amended to take on board the views of citizens and groups who took part in the process.
- If the Commission decides to continue with the proposal, it usually becomes a ‘white paper’
- It will then be presented to both the European Parliament and the European Council for their approval under a procedure known as ‘co-decision’
- The proposal is also sent to the national parliaments of all member states who can object if it’s felt the subject would be better dealt with under national law
The Council always tries to get the agreement of all member states before approving a proposal but depending on the subject of the law it may make its decision on the basis of qualified majority voting (QMV).
When the European Parliament gets a ‘white paper’ proposal it’s discussed and amendments may be suggested. A vote will then be taken on whether to reject or accept the proposal.
If the Council and the Parliament disagree on a proposed law or action they will try to sort out their differences through a conciliation committee. If the committee can agree on a revised text, both the Council and the Parliament can vote on the proposal again.
LAW MAKING PROCEDURES:
is the most common procedure for making new laws but there are three others which are also used.
TYPES OF LEGISLATION:
Under the consultation procedure The Parliament is consulted about the proposed legislation but it doesn’t have any power over the Commission and the Council
The Cooperation procedure is only used when the law relates to economic and monetary policy. It allows the Council to adopt a proposal but it has to approve it unanimously if the Parliament opposes it. This procedure has been abolished by the Treaty of Lisbon.
The Consent procedure is used for the accession of new member states and certain matters concerning the European Central Bank. Proposed legislation has to be approved by the Parliament but it can’t make any amendments.
Three different types of legislation can be proposed at European Union level - regulations, directives and decisions.
- Regulations are legally binding across all member states as soon as they are passed and have the same force as national laws
- Directives compel national governments to adapt their own law to comply with an EU policy and are also legally binding. Member states decide for themselves how to implement directives but they must do so by a specified date
- Decisions are another type of EU law that relate to a specific issue. They are legally binding on the individuals or institutions to which they are addressed
ROLE OF DÁIL EIREANN:
Under the Lisbon Treaty national parliaments like Dáil Eireann are now more involved in the work of the EU.
When the European Commission puts forward a proposal for new EU legislation national parliaments can decide if new legislation is necessary or if the subject of the proposal would be better dealt with under national law.
If one third of the parliaments object to the proposal it’s sent back to the Commission for review under what’s called the ‘yellow card’ procedure.
If a majority of parliaments reject the proposal and MEPs agree the proposal can be scrapped. When this happens it’s know as the ‘orange card’ procedure.
This new measure means TDs now have more of a say in EU legislation than ever before.
FIND OUT MORE:
In order to influence EU policy and have a say in proposed legislation NGOs need to target the three main institutions, either directly or through MEPs, TDs and local city, town and county councillors.
Use the links below to find out more about each of the institutions and how they can be contacted.
- To find out more about how the European Commission can help click here
- To find out more about how the European Parliament can help click here
- To find out more about how the Council of the European Union can help click here