The CAP 2013 reform was the first negotiated under the ordinary legislative procedure (co-decision) in which both the Parliament and the Council had equal powers. A project undertaken by the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels for the European Parliament’s Policy Department has sought to examine what impact and influence the Parliament had on the CAP 2013 out-turn as a result of co-decision. Did co-decision give the Parliament a greater opportunity to influence the final outcome, who were the key players in shaping the Parliament’s views and what did the Parliament use its influence to achieve?
The final study, when it is published, will throw light on these issues. The team behind the study (of which I was one) also commissioned a series of case studies on specific issues raised in the co-decision process. These case studies are now available on the CEPS website. They include a detailed amendment analysis by Imre Fertð and Attila Kovács of the Council and Parliament amendments to the Commission’s original draft proposals which evaluates the relative effectiveness of the two bodies in carrying their amendments into the final legislation, a detailed study of the role of COMAGRI by Christilla Roederer-Rynning, an analysis of the evolution of the greening debate by Kaley Hart, and an analysis of the European Parliament’s position on market regulation by Alessandro Olper.
The case study that I contributed concerned the impact of the simultaneous multi-annual financial framework (MFF) negotiations for the period 2014-2020 on the European Parliament’s influence on the CAP 2013 reform. I argue that the parallel negotiations on the MFF influenced the CAP reform outcome in three ways.
The first connection arose in the agenda-setting phase of the CAP reform. DG AGRI’s reform proposal was motivated in part by the need to address new challenges facing EU agriculture and rural areas, but also by the need to create a narrative which would help to defend and maximise the CAP budget in the negotiations within the Commission on the size and composition of the MFF it would propose.
The Commission’s proposal to maintain the CAP budget in the MFF at the 2013 level in nominal terms was clearly based on the expectation that the new CAP would focus much more on environmental objectives than before.
A second connection occurred through the scheduling of the two sets of negotiations. From the outset, the Parliament indicated that it was not prepared to legislate on CAP reform until the MFF figures were known. The delay by the European Council in finalising the MFF figures until February 2013 had two consequences.
First, it compressed the time available to conclude the CAP negotiations given the preference by all sides that an agreement had to be reached before the end of the Irish Presidency in June 2013. However, there is no clear evidence that a longer period for the trilogues would have changed the outcome or led to a different agreement.
Second, the insistence of the Parliament that no serious CAP negotiations should begin until the budget numbers were known worked to strongly favour those holding to a status-quo oriented position on the reform proposals while disadvantaging those who sought a more radical change in the orientation of the CAP.
This was because once the MFF was adopted by the European Council and its overall size and ceilings accepted by the Parliament in early 2013, the threat of a budget reduction if greening were watered down played no role in determining the outcome. This allowed farm groups and status-quo minded member states and MEPs to weaken the ambition of the greening proposals without having to worry that this could lead to a reduction in the CAP budget. If the CAP reform had been negotiated while there was still uncertainty over the budget figures, it is possible that the final MFF outcome might not have been so generous to agricultural spending.
But it was the third linkage between the MFF and CAP negotiations which raised the question of co-decision most sharply. This was the inclusion in the European Council’s MFF conclusions of issues which would ultimately be incorporated into the new CAP regulations to be decided by co-decision. That the European Council has the right to pronounce on substantive policy issues is not, I think, in question.
The difficulty arose because the issues which the European Council included in its MFF conclusions were given a privileged status by the Council negotiators in the trilogue discussions. Although the Parliament eventually gained some small concessions in the final settlement, its role as co-legislator on these issues was certainly diminished.
The fact that the Parliament succeeded in getting some amendments to the European Council’s position is an important marker for future negotiations. Nonetheless, I argue in the case study that the Parliament’s power to influence legislation through co-decision will inevitably be curtailed in situations where the European Council has pronounced by unanimity.
In particular, I draw a distinction between CAP legislative decisions which directly affect the net flows from the EU budget to member states (e.g., the external convergence formula, the distribution of Pillar 2 funds) and other legislative issues. I argue that the Parliament will always find it virtually impossible to change the unanimous agreement of Heads of State and Government on the direct allocation of resources. If the Parliament is to have influence on these resource allocation issues, then it must exercise that influence prior to the European Council conclusions being reached.
On the other hand, all other CAP-related issues should be fully open in the trilogue negotiations between the two institutions. It does not seem to be in the spirit of co-decision for the Council to argue that certain issues are non-negotiable simply because the European Council has pronounced on them.
Latest posts by Alan Matthews
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