Strasbourg round-up: Parliament presents annual report on better law-making

Shadow rapporteurs Lidia Geringer de Oedenberg, Rebecca Taylor and Morten Messerschmidt share their views on ECR deputy Sajjad Karim's report on better law-making.

Lidia Geringer de Oedenberg believes that Karim's report 'correlates' to the 'political war' being waged by the British prime minister.

Since 1995 the European committee on legal affairs has produced an annual report on better law-making to improve European legislation. This year, my colleague Sajjad Karim has been charged with the task of preparing the 19th report. I was appointed shadow rapporteur by the S&D group.

The Karim report responds to three communications produced by the commission on: better law-making, EU regulatory fitness and smart regulating concerning SMEs.

Mr Karim's report makes important suggestions about the compliance with the principle of subsidiarity and proportionality, and the need to renegotiate the 2003 inter-institutional agreement on better law-making.

"Karim's proposal correlates to UK prime minister David Cameron's political war declared against access of EU immigrants, residing in the UK, to social benefits"

He also highlights the need to improve the commission's impact assessment, both in terms of quality indicators and the general course of the consultation process. I agree on this point and further propose using better methodology for involving relevant stakeholders and improving qualitative aspects.

While assenting to these points, other themes in Mr Karim's report are difficult for me and my group to accept. One regards his proposals to establish a stronger "red card" procedure that will increase the rights of national governments, hence their ability, to block EU legislation. Naturally, our group is concerned about the potential misuse of this application.

Another problem refers to the section on better law-making. Here Mr Karim backs a business friendly environment by proposing to reduce social standards and postpone the implementation of the social partners' agreements at the EU level. While I support the need to simplify some obligations for SMEs, I also believe that the social clause must be upheld and apply equally to all employees.

In this context Mr Karim's proposal correlates to UK prime minister David Cameron's "political war" declared against access of EU immigrants, residing in the UK, to social benefits.

In conclusion, I welcome different approaches to making EU legislation more effective; nevertheless I believe these must ensure compliance to the EU treaties and be aware of the social acquis. This way we can really improve governance and law-making in the EU.

Rebecca Taylor says that growth and job creation can be achieved in Europe if the cost of regulation is kept to a minimum.

EU legislation should be clear, effective and efficient and so I was happy to see such a clear majority for a report looking at this very topic. National parliaments have a very important role to play at all levels of the EU legislative process, and it is essential for the European commission to consider their role to a greater extent, as well as pay more attention to the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. The procedures currently in place for national parliaments, such as the yellow card procedure, must be improved to encourage greater involvement.

"Delivering growth and job creation in Europe can also be achieved by keeping the cost of regulation down"

The ALDE group voted in favour of the report calling on the commission to make concrete proposals to lessen regulatory burdens for businesses in Europe. This is especially important for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and the 'think small first' principle must be at the forefront in order to help entrepreneurship across Europe. This has to be achieved in a balanced way so as to not to undermine for example consumer protection. Delivering growth and job creation in Europe can also be achieved by keeping the cost of regulation down. I was very pleased that the parliament has by a large majority called for a cut in red tape for SMEs across Europe, thus improving business conditions and competitiveness, something that is essential in the current economic climate.

National parliaments need to play a bigger role in the European legislative process, argues Morten Messerschmidt

For years the quality and effectiveness of European legislation has been up for debate. Actually this was the 19th time the European parliament discussed the issue. And even though there still are obstacles - especially concerning members states incorporating directives and creating a level playing field - progress has been achieved. My approach to the work has been via the constitutional affairs committee (AFCO). Here the focus has not only been on ensuring that EU legislation is simple, effective and efficient, but also on the fundamental principles of subsidiarity and proportionality as ensured in the treaty. These are important factors each time the Union legislates - and we need to improve the control of both principles, as to avoid that the Union engages into issues and measures that could - and therefore should - be settled on national level.

"Member states are showing an ever greater interest in the proper application of these principles by the institutions of the Union"

Today the national parliaments have the authority to evaluate whether a new piece of legislation is in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity. But they only have eight weeks to do so. This period of time is critically short and needs to be enlarged, if this new tool is to have any significant influence. The AFCO opinion directly welcomes the closer participation of national parliaments in the framework of the European legislative process and notes that the parliaments of the member states are showing an ever greater interest in the proper application of these principles by the institutions of the Union.

As a matter of fact, the amount of interventions from the national parliaments has significantly increased, which is a good sign. In 2011 the European parliament received 77 reasoned opinions claiming that a draft legislative act did not comply with the principle of subsidiarity, and 523 other contributions on the merit of a draft law, whereas the respective figures for 2010 were 41 and 299. This is a positive development, emphasising the need to continue with and to strengthen cooperation and interparliamentary dialogue with national parliaments.