Previous editions of EU Analyst have examined how key decisions on EU environment and life sciences regulation are taken behind closed doors. In the EU legal framework, 'comitology' committees (made up of a representative from each EU Member State and chaired by the European Commission) simply implement rules laid down by the Council. However, this is deceptive since their decisions authorise products (e.g. active substances in plant protection and biocidal products and GMOs) and make minor, but commercially significant, amendments to legislation (e.g. the adoption of exemptions to legislation). This has led to a demand for increased transparency and democratic participation. It is hard to understate the importance of comitology in the formation of EU regulation. In 2009, there were 266 comitology committees in operation. In the 2004- 2009 legislative term of the European Parliament ('Parliament'), these committees completed a total of 447 'co-decision' matters. In contrast, in 2009 alone, comitology committees delivered 2,091 opinions and adopted 1,808 implementing measures. In this article we explain how the Treaty of Lisbon has substantially amended the rules governing how such decisions will be taken in the future. The amended rules will potentially have significant consequences for the balance of power among EU institutions and for stakeholders.
Comitology today: a refresher
Comitology committees today operate under four principal procedures set out in Council Decision 1999/468/EC, with more than half of the committees applying more than one procedure:
Advisory procedure: The committee issues its nonbinding opinion (voting by simple majority) on the Commission's draft measure, which the Commission must take the 'utmost account of ' before it adopts. Management procedure: If the committee (voting by qualified majority) agrees with the Commission's draft measure it is adopted immediately, but if it opposes a draft measure the Commission must refer it to the Council which may adopt a different decision (also voting by qualified majority). Regulatory procedure: If the committee (voting by qualified majority) opposes the Commission's draft measure, it must be referred to the Council and the Parliament must be informed. The Council (also voting by qualified majority) may agree to the Commission proposal or oppose it. If it opposes, the Commission will re-examine the proposal and may; (i) amend it for the Council to re-consider; or...