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Who makes the decisions in the EU?

April 19, 2016 11:48 AM
By Liz Lynne in Liberal Democrat Voice

European flagsI have become increasingly frustrated that so many people, including journalists and UK politicians, do not seem to know how the EU actually works and who is responsible for making the decisions on legislation. Over and over again I hear that unelected bureaucrats are in charge and people endlessly talk about the democratic deficit. The reason they do that is that they have been fed this misinformation by the majority of the press and media for years.

I thought it was about time to try and put the record straight. Having been both an MP and then an MEP I can genuinely say that I had more power to shape legislation as an MEP than I did as an MP even though I was a front bench spokesperson.

Most legislation in the EU has to be passed by both the MEPs and the Council which are made up of Ministers from each Member State that is why I get so frustrated when people say that unelected bureaucrats make the decisions. They are usually under the misapprehension that the Commission are the ones who actually legislate.

The Commission will draw up legislation either on their own initiative or because enough Member States want it or there has been a citizens' petition. It will then go to the Committee responsible in the European Parliament, The Council and Member States. The European Parliament can actually reject it right away, accept it as it is or amend it.

When I was on the Employment and Social Affairs Committee of the European Parliament we generally would amend it. That would be done by all parties on the committee and would be voted on first by the committee and then by the full Parliament. The amended legislation would then go to the Ministers from all Member States for their approval or not. If they approved it, it would then become law and would have to be enacted by a certain date.

If they didn't agree with our proposal it would come back to our committee for us to look at possible further amendments which would then go back to the Council once the committee and full Parliament had voted on it. If they again disagreed with our proposal we would then go into what was called conciliation and a committee would be set up of equal members of the Council and the European Parliament and it could take anything up to six weeks to get agreement. If the Council and Parliament could not agree after this time the legislation would fall. If we reached agreement it would then go back to the Parliament for a final vote and would be formally signed by representatives from both the Parliament and the Council.

At no time during this process did the unelected Commission have any decision making powers, they would act as civil servants helping us to redraft the legislation in line with what the Parliament and Council had agreed.

The Commission then had the task to make sure that the Member States enacted the legislation in the time frame that had been agreed by the Parliament and the Council.

I hope this explains in some way why I get so frustrated when I hear people say that unelected bureaucrats are making the decisions!

* Liz Lynne is former MEP for the West Midlands and is a board member of EEF - the Manufacturers' Organisation