In My Day: Legislative procedure

Written by Richard Corbett on 19 November 2015 in Opinion

Parliament’s increasing powers have helped close the EU’s democratic deficit, writes Richard Corbett.


Until 1979, the European Parliament was composed of delegations from national parliaments. It had only the right to be consulted on a small range of proposals before adoption by the Council of Ministers.

This meant that ministers could adopt new laws without recourse to an elected assembly – a severe ‘democratic deficit’ in the legislative process.

From these humble beginnings, Parliament’s stature has increased through a series of treaty revisions. In 1970 and 1975 it gained the power to adopt the EU budget, and to amend it (within ceilings).


In 1987 it also gained the power to approve or reject a range of international agreements. MEPs also acquired the power not just to supervise but to appoint the European Commission, now including the election of the Commission president.

Within ten years of directly electing full-time MEPs, Parliament’s role as co-legislator also began to expand. First there was the cooperation procedure, granting MEPs the right to amend proposals in some areas (subject to override by Council).

Codecision, which removed the override for limited fields in 1993, gradually morphed into the ‘ordinary legislative procedure’, now applicable to almost all fields where rules are made at European level.

Over four decades, the European Parliament has evolved from a largely consultative assembly into one half of a genuine bicameral system, with an equal role to that of Council in nearly all fields of European law making.

About the author

Richard Corbett is a Labour Member of the European Parliament for Yorkshire & the Humber, UK.

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