Road to EU 2024

Revised Parliament’s procedures fuels debate on how to make Europe fit for the future

December 2023
By Federico Trenta

Political Group leaders sat down on Thursday with President Roberta Metsola to adopt a comprehensive reform of the structure and procedures of the European Parliament to be implemented in view of the new 2024-2029 mandate. The proposals, which were put forward at the beginning of 2023 by the new Secretary General (and former Head of Metsola’s Cabinet) Mr Alessandro Chiocchetti, aims at increasing EP weight in the legislative process and efficiency. Discussions in the Working Group on Parliamentary Reform composed of representatives of all political groups lasted almost one year, with yesterday’s adoption kicking off the implementation phase in order to get new measures up and running for the new mandate.

Most of the adopted measures will reinforce the EP’s role in the legislative-making process, streamlining procedures for committee cooperation and enhancing the referral procedure to avoid lengthy and difficult conflicts of competences. In particular, there will be a single and simplified form of cooperation between committees for legislative and non-legislative dossiers, replacing the current system of opinions (association, with exclusive competence etc). Also, joint work among three committees and the possibility to set up ad hoc temporary committee with legislative powers will be enabled.

Regarding conflicts of competences, the Working Group on Parliamentary Reform addressed one of the main issues of this mandate, when the EP experienced severe delays on key pieces of legislation, as happened with the Digital Services and Markets Acts. The new procedure will allow conflicts of competences to be solved before the referral in Plenary.

Parliament’s scrutiny powers over the European Commission were another issue of concern for the Working Group. “Special scrutiny hearings” will be now allowed for matters of major political importance or for specific topics requiring EP attention. The upgrade of question time in plenary session and committees, and a reinforced dialogue with relevant Commissioners at all stages will also serve this purpose.

Last but not least, a proposal for restructuring powers and responsibilities of standing committees, as well as the list of standing delegations, will be discussed among the political groups and possibly referred to the Conference of Presidents for decision at a later stage. Key measures would entail the set up of standing committees on health, competitiveness and digital issues.

The objective is to implement the reforms before the European Elections 2024. Some measures will require translation into the Rules of Procedure (RoP), which would need to be finalised in view of an adoption in plenary before the latest session on 22-26 April 2024.

While this represents a solid step forward from an organisational point of view, key political issues remain unsolved, especially in light of EP expectations at the beginning of the current mandate. The weak MEPs scrutiny mechanism over Commission’s delegated and implementing legislation, as well as the lack of legislative initiating power, continues to fuel the debate around the democratic deficit.

This comprehensive reform must be seen as an EP attempt to increase its powers within the current institutional framework. MEPs ultimate goal remains Treaty reform, where a wider discussion on how to make Europe fit for current and future challenges may take place. Recent statements by former Italian Prime Minister, EU Central Bank chief and now in charge of a report on the future of EU competitiveness, Mario Draghi, on the need to step up EU integration, revamped a discussion which was already a relevant part of von der Leyen’s 2019 political agenda. The global challenges the EU has been facing since then makes a comprehensive reform of the European structure, competences and decision-making procedure more needed than ever.

Pressure now mounts now on EU leaders, which may be called upon to decide on the opening of a treaty reform convention during the next summit in Brussels on 14-15 December.