What does co-decision have in store?

When the Lisbon Treaty came into force on 1 December 2009, one of the big winners was the European Parliament which gained equal status with the Council of Ministers in most EU decision-making, including for the first time agricultural policy-making (although with some ambiguity about its role in setting prices and aid levels to which Wyn Grant has drawn attention). There is considerable interest in whether these new powers will be used to promote or block CAP reform. The pessimistic view is that the EP will become the focus of intense sectoral lobbying which will be used to block reform.

Parliament2Some light may be thrown on the way the EP will exercise its new legislative role by looking at trade policy, another area where the Parliament gained new powers under the Lisbon Treaty. Currently, the EU-South Korean Free Trade Agreement, which was negotiated under the old Nice Treaty rules, is up for ratification under the new Lisbon rules. According to a report in EUObserver, there is a possibility that the EP could reject the agreement, in large part because of lobbying by European small car manufacturers.

The EUObserver report notes that a debate in the Parliament next week will throw light on the stance of the European legislature, with observers predicting support or opposition is likely to fall along national rather than political lines. One MEP, Christofer Fjellner, a member of the parliament’s trade committee and a supporter of the agreement is quoted: “It would be very disturbing if the first thing the European Parliament does with its new powers is to take special interests to heart and increasingly act in a protectionist way.”

A signpost of things to come in agricultural policy ?

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1 Reply to “What does co-decision have in store?”

  1. We might also look for clues in Friday’s confirmation hearing in the European Parliament for Agriculture Commissioner designate Dacian Ciolos.

    If, has been reported, Ciolos got a bigger round of applause at the end of his hearing than any other Commissioner designate this week it could be because European Parliament is be rubbing its hands with glee at having such an inexperienced Commissioner to work with under the new co-decision rules.

    As his newly appointed spokesperson Roger Waite observed at farmpolicy.com,

    “With co-decision, it could be a massive advantage for the EP, and for the COMAGRI in particular, to have an inexperienced Commissioner. He is reasonably close to COMAGRI Chairman Paolo De Castro (former Italian Minister) from their time together as Ministers – and so De Castro may have a much stronger influence over him, than over a different Commissioner.”

    If it was sometimes said of Mrs Fischer Boel “you are no Franz Fischler” then I think we can safely say of Ciolos, “you are no Mariann Fischer Boel”. I was pleased to see the back of Mrs Fischer Boel but I perhaps should have been more careful of what I wished for.

    Besisdes a performance by Ciolos which lacked both a impressive style and a detailed command of the policy issues or a coherent vision for the long-term future of the policy, I thought the hearing was very revealing of the reactionary stance of the EP AGRI committee.

    What came through loud and clear is the extent to which its members are happy to parrot the talking points of the farm union / agribusiness lobby, hammering again on just two priorities: keep the subsidy money flowing and keep as much food from entering the EU from overseas as possible.

    On the positive side, I don’t actually think that the future of the CAP will be decided on the basis of a careful consideration of the policy itself. It will be a budget fight, pure and simple. Ciolos is unlikely to be rank among the emerging power quartet of Almunia, Barnier, De Gucht and Rehn and together with President Barroso, it will be these ‘big beasts’ that drive the budget agenda. It will also be interesting to see if others in the Parliament who aren’t so tied to the farm lobby decide that they need to enter the budget debate, and how effective they’ll be at taking aim at the CAP.

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