With less than nine months to go until next May’s elections to the European Parliament, the European Commission and MEPs are increasingly concerned with ensuring adoption of important pieces of legislation.
José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, has instructed commissioners to be selective in making new proposals because they might not make it through the European Union’s legislative process before Parliament in its current composition meets for its last plenary in mid-April 2014. The college of commissioners devoted its first, informal meeting after the summer break, on 28 August, to a discussion of its work programme for the remainder of this term. Barroso will outline his priorities in the State of the Union address in Strasbourg on Wednesday (11 September).
However, the Commission also wants to avoid the impression that it may have stopped working. Legislative proposals on the EU’s project for a banking union are expected this autumn, and the Commission yesterday (4 September) made a proposal on shadow banking (see page 7). Several departments will be closely involved in trade negotiations with the US, and the Commission will continue scrutinising member states’ budget proposals.
But Barroso is also seeking assurances from Parliament’s political leaders that they will fast-track priority files, notably on banking union. At a meeting tentatively scheduled for 3 October, Barroso wants to discuss the legislative agenda for the remainder of the term with the leaders of the political groups, urging them to ensure that financial and economic legislation is adopted in time.
He held a meeting with the leaders of the two biggest groups in Parliament, Joseph Daul of the centre-right and Hannes Swoboda of the centre-left, in Brussels yesterday (4 September). A spokeswoman for Barroso declined to provide detail about the priorities, saying that they were being “calibrated”.
“We are running out of time because Parliament has its last plenary in April,” said Corien Wortmann-Kool, vice-chairwoman of the centre-right European People’s Party group. She urged MEPs to complete legislation on banking union, notably a single resolution mechanism. “This is an urgent priority because the economic recovery is slowing down and there is continuing uncertainty about banks’ assets.”
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Rebecca Harms, the co-leader of the Green group, said that there was “a great deal of agreement” among MEPs on bank resolution but that the proposal was stalled in the Council of Ministers because of German opposition. “After the German election [on 22 September] it will be far easier to discuss the existential questions in the EU,” she said.
Swoboda said that the Commission was holding back. “Social Europe is obviously of great importance for us, and here we see Barroso delaying,” he said. “There are a number of proposals, but Barroso has not yet given the green light [for Commission adoption], on industrial restructuring, for example, and on working conditions.”
Any unfinished law-making business is deemed to have lapsed once Parliament holds its last plenary. After the elections, to take place on 22-25 May, the new Parliament is scheduled to hold two plenary sessions next June.
It will have the power to resume interrupted legislative procedures should the relevant committee or other bodies request this, at the discretion of the Parliament’s political leadership, the conference of presidents.