Legal experts suggest the Council of the European Union is violating EU law by not initiating the procedure for a Treaty reform as officially requested by the European Parliament. EURACTIV Italy reports.
Last June, the European Parliament approved a resolution proposing specific Treaty amendments and asking the European Council to convene a Convention to reform the Treaties.
Although Commission President Ursula von der Leyen supported this proposal in her State of the Union speech, the Council has not submitted the proposal to the European Council nor notified national Parliaments, EURACTIV has learnt.
Lisbon Treaty article 48 recognises the Commission and Parliament as having the power of initiative regarding Treaty reform, which was previously limited to member states.
The Parliament committed itself to use that power in several resolutions in the past but always fell short of proposing specific amendments to identified articles of the Treaties until last June.
As a follow-up to the Conference on the future of Europe, the Parliament approved a resolution proposing:
- First, a series of Treaty changes based on the conference results: to overcome unanimity in favour of qualified majority voting; to strengthen the EU competences and powers with regards to health and cross-border health threats, energy defence, and social and economic policies; to provide Parliament with full co-decision rights on the EU budget, and with the right to initiate, amend or repeal legislation; to strengthen the EU tools for the protection of the EU fundamental values.
- Second, it formally submits specific amendments to art. 29 and 48 TEU to move decisions from unanimity to qualified majority voting, explicitly indicating that this was made ex-art. 48 and thus counted as a formal request to open the ordinary Treaty revision procedure.
Article 48 indicates that if Treaty amendments are proposed by the Parliament, the Commission or a member state, the Council submits them to the European Council and notifies the national parliaments.
Then the European Council shall decide by simple majority on opening a Treaty reform procedure.
This goes through a European Convention – thus involving national governments and Parliaments, the European Parliament and Commission – or an Intergovernmental Conference among national governments only if the amendments are limited.
In ‘due time.’
EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola wrote to the Council Presidency twice in June, asking the Council to proceed.
Contacted by EURACTIV, an EU official confirmed that the EU Parliament’s two specific proposals for the amendment of the Treaties [point 6 in the EU Parliament resolution] have not yet been submitted by the Council to the European Council nor notified to the national parliaments.
“In its reply of 27 July 2022 to the letters sent by the President of the European Parliament in this regard, the Council took note of the European Parliament’s call for a Convention for the revision of the Treaties and affirmed its commitment to act within its own sphere of competences and in accordance with its obligations under the Treaties,” the EU official said.
“Therefore, the Council will in due time submit the European Parliament’s proposals to the European Council and notify national Parliaments of these proposals, in accordance with Article 48(2) TEU,” the EU official added.
The Council is legally obliged to submit the proposals
According to Professor Giuseppe Martinico of the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies of Pisa, the wording of article 48 “does not seem to give the Council the power to filter or select the proposals submitted by national governments, Commission and European Parliament”.
“In this sense, one may argue that the Council has a legal obligation to submit the proposals to the European council and to notify the national Parliaments. Article 48 does not pose a time limit, but the principle of loyal institutional cooperation should bring the Council to proceed without further delay,” the Italian professor said.
“Eventually, in analogy with article 225 TFEU, the Council should at least take a motivated decision about not to proceed,” Martinico added.
Along the same line, Professor Alberto Alemanno of the Haute Ecole Commerciale of Paris said:
The Council is the only institution which has not yet approved its formal position on the conference’s results.Alberto Alemanno
A political matter?
The EU official also said the Council is fully committed to ensuring the best possible follow-up to the Conference on the Future of Europe.
“Work is ongoing in the Council, notably on the basis of a comprehensive preliminary technical assessment of the 49 Conference proposals containing 328 measures,” the EU official noted.
More than 90% of these proposals, the official said, could be implemented within the current Treaty framework without the need for Treaty change.
“Therefore, the vast majority of the citizens’ wishes could be given a positive follow-up within a relatively short time frame, if so decided politically,” the EU official said.
If the Parliament were to sue the Council to the European Court of Justice for not fulfilling its obligation – to submit the proposals to the European Council and to notify the National Parliaments – it may have a “good case”, a source close to the matter told EURACTIV Italy.
“But the legal battle would further delay the start of the Treaty revision procedure,” the source warned.