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EU to update procedures for implementing legislation

The European Commission has proposed changes to the comitology regulation which covers how EU legislation is decided.21 Feb 2017

Voting rules for the last stage of the procedure should be changed so that only votes in favour of or against an act are counted. This will reduce the use of abstentions to influence decisions, and the number of times that the committee is unable to take a decision, obliging the Commission to act without a clear mandate from member states, it said.

"The comitology system works well for the large majority of decisions. However, in a number of high profile and sensitive cases in recent years member states have been unable to find the necessary majorities to either vote in favour or against certain draft acts, a so-called 'no opinion' scenario," the Commission said.

"In these cases, the responsibility to take a final decision falls upon the Commission, obliging a decision to be taken without clear political backing from member states. In 2015 and 2016, the Commission was legally obliged to adopt 17 acts which concerned the authorisation of sensitive products and substances such as glyphosate or genetically modified organisms, despite member states being unable to take position either in favour or against the decisions," it said.

The Commission has also proposed making a second referral to the appeal committee at ministerial level if national experts do not take a position, to make sure that decisions are discussed at the appropriate political level.

The votes of member states' representatives in the appeal committee should be made public to increase transparency, the Commission said.

Finally, the Commission should be able to refer a matter to the Council of Ministers for an opinion if the appeal committee is unable to make a decision.

The proposals are an attempt to deliver on a pledge made by EU president Jean Claude Juncker in his state of the union speech in September 2016, the Commission said. "It is not right that when EU countries cannot decide among themselves whether or not to ban the use of glyphosate in herbicides, the Commission is forced by Parliament and Council to take a decision. So we will change those rules," Juncker said.