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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

National democracy pushing back: European Commission shown its second ever 'yellow card'

The European Commission has just been shown its second ever 'yellow card'. Remember, this is the provision introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, stating that if one third or more national parliaments object to an EU proposal on subsidiarity grounds (within an eight week window), then the Commission has to reconsider the proposal. In theory, the Commission can choose to ignore parliaments (one of our long-standing criticisms of the mechanisms). However, in fairness, the last time the yellow card was issued - in the case of the so-called 'Monti II' Regulation on the right to strike - the Commission did scrap the thing.

National parliaments from eleven EU member states - the UK, Czech Republic, Cyprus, France, Hungary, Ireland, Malta, Netherlands, Sweden, Romania and Slovenia - have now complained that plans for a European Public Prosecutor Office (EPPO) breach the subsidiarity principle.

According to the Lisbon Treaty, the establishment of the EPPO requires unanimity, and the UK would have sought to opt out, but that also means that other EU countries could have pressed ahead with this without Britain.

So the move is still significant for a few reasons:
  • It is another example of how national parliaments are increasingly pushing back against EU centralisation, and how little appetite there is for 'ever closer union' (the Commission's proposal was limited, with the prosecutor only being responsible for investigating fraud involving EU funds).
  • It shows national parliaments can agree. In total, 15 chambers from eleven EU member states objected to the idea. Bear in mind that an objection raised by a chamber from a country whose parliament is unicameral (e.g. Sweden or Cyprus) counts as two votes. Therefore, to some extent, it counters the argument that a new 'red card' system allowing a group of national parliaments to block unwanted EU proposals - which we have supported for a while - would not work because national parliaments would not get their act together. 
The ball is now in the European Commission's court. It will take quite a bit of nerve to ignore 15 more or less democratically elected chambers (*ehum*) in Europe....


jon livesey said...

I would put it just slightly differently. It's not just an example of national Parliaments pushing back. It's an example of the way that the EU is becoming an increasingly toxic issue in domestic politics.

It used to be the case that the EU enjoyed such high prestige - remember when that was the case? - that national Parliaments could afford to be on cruise control, knowing that just about anything the EU proposed would be fine with voters.

It's a measure of how much the past five years have damaged the EU and exposed the Emperor's tatty underwear that now everything the EU does is subject to scrutiny.

Rollo said...

Does it seem extraordinary that an unelected bureaucracy, paid for by member states, should ignore the will of 15 democratically elected chambers? Unfortunately, no. The Kommission will simply carry on pushing for its policies regardless of the will of the people who pay them.
The only answer: stop paying them.

Denis Cooper said...

This article is about "national parliaments", plural, "pushing back" through another form of transnational majority voting.

I'm not interested in that; for any decisions to be made by any form of transnational majority voting is an unacceptable affront to our national sovereignty and democracy; what I want is the restoration of our national democracy through the recovery of the UK's national veto on all EU proposals.

Nothing less than that will do.

clinihyp said...

What an interesting situation. Britain chose not to oppose on it ostensibly because they were afraid other countries would not support them?

My oh my. If Mr.Cameron is so short on courage, how one earth does he he expect us to believe that he is 'determined' to renegotiate our position!

The other thought is that perhaps the former Chief Executive of the Tory party, Barry Legg told us....

"“Having failed to deliver on his promise to oppose Lisbon in office, David Cameron now promises to oppose future treaties transferring power. The whole point of Lisbon is that it does away with such treaties in future. Does David Cameron really not understand this, or is he again trying to play games with words? David Cameron refuses to say how he’ll able to convince every single other EU state to agree to hand back powers to Britain. He refuses to say what he’ll do if they don’t. He refuses to say what time scale he is working to. He refuses to say what he expects to give up in negotiations”

Denis Cooper said...

"The ball is now in the European Commission's court. It will take quite a bit of nerve to ignore 15 more or less democratically elected chambers (*ehum*) in Europe."


"National parliaments opposed to creating an EU-wide prosecutor want the European Commission to rework its flagship proposal, but EU officials say it is likely to go ahead."

"An EU official told this website that: "Formally, the number of votes was reached to trigger the yellow card procedure."

But they added: "It is the commission that decides if there has been a yellow card or not and what would be the consequences.""

How can anyone trust these people?

Mauro Gagliardi said...

Putting aside the specific case of the EPPO yellow card, there are more general considerations about the participation of national Parliaments in the life of the Union.

I believe it is at least strange that Parliaments can only "undo" things and present "yellow cards", therefore play a censorship role, but are in no other ways constructively associated or empowered when it comes to EU matters.

This strange asymmetry needs to be explored further by EU politicians and thinkers, it would be wrong to think that any form of political union can be done without, against or despite national Parliaments.

Denis Cooper said...

Mauro Gagliardi -

I don't want my Parliament to have any participation in the life of the Union.

I would prefer the Union to be dead, for the sake of Europe, but otherwise I don't want my national Parliament involved in it.

My national Parliament is a sovereign national institution, and I reject all attempts to treat it as if it were an institution of a Union which is, for all its pretensions, still nothing more than an international organisation established by treaty between its sovereign member states.

Greg_L-W. said...


it is interesting to note that in the one instance where a majority of countries issued the nearest they can to a veto, that has been processed, the EU Commission displayed their contermpt for democracy and ignored them.

Little wonder the EU is increasingly hated across the EU.

Do note the EU has NEVER had a clear vote in its favour from its electorate!

The EU is thus nothing more than an unelected evil committee dictatorship bringing hatred & misery and serves no purpose for thwe people, as it rubber stamps the orders, laws & dictates of such as the WTO, CODEX, UN, IMF, G20, Davos & similar.

It is time to end this obscene, profligate & corrupt body that has brought such misery, division and discord to so many ie. Greece, Spain, Italy, UK, Ireland & others.


Anonymous said...

Time that the corruption ridden democratically deficient eussr was dismantled, but unfortunately our politicians make money out of it and they are not going to kill the golden goose.