Alfredo De Feo European pratictioner and researcher

The need for EU reform is gaining ground and rising on the European political agenda. In 2015 the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies started a research project on the use of financial resources in Europe. This project, part of the Integration, Governance and Democracy strand, has followed the approach of the RSCAS in combining multidisciplinary academic researchers and practitioners from the EU Institutions and Member States.

As part of this project, a first workshop was organised on Own Resources, followed by a workshop on Efficiency and Effectiveness of the EU Budget. Scrutiny of EU policies was the third of this series.

The workshop brought together multidisciplinary academics, politicians and practitioners, who engaged in a lively discussion touching upon the different facets of scrutiny of EU legislation and their links with the decision-making process.

In a period of deep crisis of the European project, of a scarcity of financial resources and with the EU facing new challenges, a rationalization and a concentration of resources would make its policies more efficient. Scrutiny of the implementation of EU legislation should be part of this process to make EU policies more focused on European priorities. EU scrutiny should not remain a concept managed internally by each institution, but should complete the legislative cycle in order to deliver better regulation. Is this already happening? How can better scrutiny be achieved? Â How could scrutiny of EU policies contribute to reform of the EU?

These are some of the questions which were addressed during the workshop and which can find some answers in the contributions collected in this publication.

The Commission and the Council have culturally dominated the European decision-making process, at least until the Lisbon Treaty. The European Parliament’s influence has nevertheless increased over time, even before the introduction of co-decision.

The Treaty entrusts the Commission with implementation competences, while the European Parliament, with the support of the Court of Auditors, gives discharge to the Commission on budget implementation. Scrutiny of EU policies is not limited to the discharge procedure, but is a more complex activity which involves all the Institutions. The Institutions have developed a number of tools – ex-ante and ex-post impact assessments and policy evaluations – to enhance the monitoring of existing legislation and the preparation of new legislation.

Furthermore, the Lisbon Treaty (art. 318) invites the Commission to submit an annual report on the evaluation of the Union’s finances based on the results achieved. This report, addressed to the legislative authority and to the Court of Auditors, increases the number of tools to evaluate the implementation of the EU policies. Article 318 has favoured a cultural change within the Institutions, which are now becoming aware of the necessity of scrutiny.

The European Parliament has among its primary tasks the scrutiny of EU policies. Experience shows that, so far, the EP is more effective in monitoring linked with political decisions. For instance, the control of the Parliament in the discharge procedure is more oriented toward influencing future implementation mechanisms, rather than toward sanctioning the Commission and the Members States. The EP practice of postponing decisions on discharge, which is not foreseen by the Treaty, has the objective of obliging the Commission to change its implementation methods according to requests formulated by the EP.

To enhance the follow-up of EU policies, since the beginning of EU legislation the European Parliament has tried to expand its legislative influence on the secondary level of legislation, the so-called implementing rules, which are adopted by the Commission with the comitology procedure.

Brigid Laffan, Director of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, EUI

Alfredo De Feo, Senior Fellow at Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, EUI

link to the book

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