The European Parliament – III part
As the name itself suggests, the European Parliament is a parliamentary assembly and as a consequence its main function is legislative, even if we cannot take it for granted. In fact, at the beginning the European Parliament was a parliamentary assembly whose power derived from the fact that it should be consulted only on certain subjects and not in every occasion. So it was simply a consultative body and it hadn’t any power. Only subsequently, and thanks to the first big reform of the European Union- the Single Act- the European Parliament has begun to acquire a certain legislative power. The first formula that has given the European Parliament a certain power, even if not definitively, was the so-called co-operation procedure. What does the co-operation procedure is? It was a procedure that allowed the Parliament to propose some amendments with respect to the project prepared by the Council. The Parliament proposed some amendments, the Council could accept or refute them, but the Council always had the final say, based on the Commission’s proposal, that should always remain valid. In case the Commission did not agree with a certain amendment, it could withdraw its proposal and this is part, as we’ll see, of the explicit power of initiative of the Commission. So the European Parliament had a power that had a little bit increased with respect to the consultative power, but that still wasn’t the full power of co-legislation, or co-decision, it has today. Today, the European Parliament, especially thanks to the amendments introduced by the Maastricht Treaty first, by the Amsterdam treaty then and finally by the Treaty of Nice and by the European constitution, has got a co decision power. In practice it means that the European Parliament can codecide on the subjects that are specifically indicated in the Treaty, that are especially the subjects relative to the first pillar, the ones pertaining to the common market, to the statutory legislation of the European Union. This means that, whenever the European Council, based on the proposal made by the Commission, presents a certain proposal and the Council – after discussing it -approves it, this proposal goes to the European Parliament. The European Parliament can, in its turn, introduce some amendments and these amendments come back to the Council. The Council either accepts them, in which case the procedure is completed and the act is concluded or it send them back to the European Parliament, in which case a settlement committee (made up of Council and European Parliament’s representatives) intervenes. Suc Committee agrees on the drawing up of certain amendments and on whether and to what extent such amendments can be accepted. If an agreement is achieved, the act is completed; in case there is no agreement, the act lapses, because, as in every parliamentary assembly, if the two legislative Chambers do not match, the parliamentary act cannot stand. As you have seen, Parliament and the Council represent the two legislative Chambers: in this case, the Council, that is also an executive body, but in this situation has a legislative function, has the same powers as the European Parliament. It has been a remarkable progress that has expanded democracy and the democratic legitimacy of the European Union. It is on this basis that the European constitution, as we’ll see in the following lessons, has built a juridical-normative structure that allows the European Union to operate better and more effectively.
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