EP instruments, sources, and resources

Site: Moodle OBC - Transeuropa
Course: The Parliament of Rights
Book: EP instruments, sources, and resources
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Date: Wednesday, 3 June 2020, 1:29 AM

Description

The European Parliament, on the basis of the principle of transparency, provides citizens with access to a wide range of materials, documents, infographics, legal resources, studies, videos, and more to document and disseminate its work


1. Introduction

The European Parliament, on the basis of the principle of transparency, provides citizens with access to a wide range of materials: legal resources, documents, studies, but also multimedia resources such as infographics, videos, and more to document and disseminate its work, and its legislative activity in particular.

This module provides a guide to the instruments and sources the EP makes available to get a better knowledge of the EU decision-making process.

The place to start is the EP website, where you can find information on current politics and the way the institution works. 


1.1. The competences of the European Parliament

To summarise what has been illustrated so far, the EP has competence in three fields: legislation, supervision, and budget.

The EP provides extensive information on each area to be used for research, analysis, study, but also for teaching.

This module shows how to study the development of a EUropean law proposal, how EU institutions can monitor its implementation, the resources available, etc..


Legislative competence

The EP's legislative function follows 4 main procedures: the Ordinary legislative procedure (COD); the Consent procedure (special legislative procedure-APP); the Consultation procedure (special legislative procedure-CNS); and the Legislative initiative procedure (INI). 

As seen in the previous modules, the Ordinary legislative procedure (COD) is the EU's main decision-making procedure, whereby the EP is co-legislator with the Council. In some cases, as prescribed by the treaties, special legislative procedures of consultation and consent apply - for example, the APP is necessary to approve new legislative acts against discrimination, such as the "horizontal directive".

We saw that initiative is up to the European Commission only. However, with the INI, the Parliament can ask the Commission to present a law proposal on a relevant topic by approving by majority an own-initiative report.  


The supervision competence

The EP has several supervision and monitoring powers over other institutions, budget expenditure, and the correct implementation of norms. 
The EP ensures the democratic control of the Commission, that regularly reports to the Parliament, including with the annual report on the EU activity and budget. The designation of the President of the Commission by the Member States must take into account the outcome of the European elections, while appointed commissioners are expected t introduce themselves with a hearing in Parliament.

The budgetary procedure

The EP shares with the Council the power to decide on the EU's annual budget.

The budget competence is exercised by setting the amount and distribution of the EU's annual expenditure and the necessary coverage as well as by monitoring the budget. The budgetary procedure includes drafting and adopting the budget. Finally, the Parliament must approve the multiannual financial framework

2. The steps of the legislation process

The animated arrow by the European Parliamentary Research Service Blog shows the steps of a law proposal, from the proposal by the Commission to adoption. 

By clicking on the arrow, you can access the EP page Legislative Train, which allows you to monitor the progress of legislative dossiers, including the anti-discrimination directive over the 5 years of the current Parliament's term, .



THE LEGISLATIVE OBSERVATORY

This instrument monitors the EU institutional decision-making process, with particular focus on the EP. Over time, the website has extended its scope to include further information on parliamentary activity, the legislation and budgetary competences, the power of initiative, the power of appointment, and several international agreements. The site publishes in English and French the “procedure files” or “fiches de procedure”, that are constantly updated until completion of the process.

EUR-Lex

EUR-Lex allows you to access a wide range of documents in the EU's 24 official languages:

  • the official Journal of the European Union;

  • EU legislation (treaties, directives, regulations, decisions, consolidated acts, etc.);

  • preparatory acts (law proposals, reports, White Books and Green Books, etc.);

  • EU body of law (verdicts, decrees, ecc.);

  • international agreements;

  • EFTA documents;

  • the summaries of EU law, that put juridical acts into their political context and illustrate their content in a simple language;

  • other public documents.

In addition, it allows you to follow the procedures leading to the adoption of juridical acts. English-language tutorials are available to learn how to consult EUR-Lex.


IPEX (InterParliamentary EU information eXchange)

This pan-European website enables the exchange of information on EU matters between the EP and the national parliaments. The main section consists of a database of documents with law proposals; advisory and informative documents of the European Commission; parliamentary documents; and information on the EU. Each national parliament uploads its own parliamentary documents.

3. How to search in the Legislative Observatory

You can set a number of parameters in the website's Search section by choosing a keyword or refining the search. In our case, by searching "Equal Treatment" we easily get to the directive 2008/0140 (APP).

To set up your search, think about what kind of parameter is most useful to you - the political group, the type of act, the relevant EP committee, etc.  




3.1. The case of the Horizontal Directive against discrimination

At the top left of the procedure fiche or file, the Legislative Observatory shows the number and procedure in question. For the Equality Treatment Directive of 200, we see that this is an APP, i.e. a special legislative procedure: the Council must deliberate unanimously and with the EP's approval. As seen before, the Lisbon treaty integrated anti-discrimination into all EU policies and actions (art. 10 of the TFEU). In the field of anti-discrimination policy, therefore, a special legislative procedure applies.

The fiche shows that the Directive was proposed by the Commission in 2008 and, after discussion, it was approved in plenary session by the EP in 2009. Finally, we understand that the Directive has been blocked in the Council for several years.

Among other information, it can be useful to look at which EP committee examined the proposal (in this case, LIBE is the committee responsible, but other committees are involved). 

It can also be useful to see who are the rapporteurs, which political group they belong to, how the debate went, and how the vote turned out. In the case of an ordinary procedure, it can be interesting to look at who proposed which kind of amendments, etc. 


IPEX, on the other hand, tells us that the directive is currently not approved by the following Member States: Denmark, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. We can also get more information on why these 7 countries have failed to approve the directive.



Source: http://www.ipex.eu/IPEXL-WEB/dossier/dossier.do?code=APP&year=2008&number=0140&appLng=EN








3.2. The block - causes and effects

The procedure file reports among the "key events" the Council debate of December 11th, 2014, and cites Germany's position in particular. 

The case of Germany

Germany is one of the countries that is blocking the Horizontal Directive, which would grant a greater number of European citizens the same rights enjoyed by those who live in Germany.

In 2006, Germany adopted the General Equal Treatment Act/Allgemeine Gleichbehandlungsgesetz (AGG). The main goal of this act is the protection of people living in Germany against discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion or belief, age, disability, or sexual orientation. Protection applies to both employment and civil law. But why does Germany oppose the directive, then?

The answer can be found on Ipex: page of the German Bundestag.

Here are summarised the three main reasons for opposing the Directive and the possible objections: 



Italy, on the other hand, approved the directive after the Commission for European Affairs deemed it in compliance with the principle of subsidiarity.

The position of the Member States opposing the Directive impacts people's decisions on their right to move freely for travel, work, or study.  It also makes it more difficult for providers of goods and services to operate across borders. Disparity in the protection from discrimination at national and EU level also means that discrimination cases cannot be addressed in a consistent manner and that victims of discrimination are left with different resources according to the Member State they live in.

Source: Commission Staff Working Document (ENG)

Link: http://www.ipex.eu/IPEXL-WEB/dossier/document/SEC20082181FIN.do


Thanks to the EP's audio-visual sources, we can watch and listen to the speech by MEP Sophie in't Veld (2014), who denounced the political reasons behind the opposition to the directive.


4. The audio-visual sources of the European Parliament

The EP's video web service is called EuroparlTV and features a lot of useful materials, including informational and background videos.

EuroparlTV content is available in several formats through an online database and is fully integrated with social media. Most videos are subtitled in the EU's 24 official languages. The service also allows to watch the plenary meetings of the EP, the EP committees, and other events.

The EP also created an educational video library to allow citizens to get to know European institutions better, and also this edu-kit has benefited from the materials produced.  

Here you can watch the EP's official Youtube channel.

The EP's works can also be followed on the European Commission's audio-visual site.

There are other Youtube channels, related to MEPs or parties present in the EP, that feature several useful videos.

The blog European Parliament Media Network provides a selection of multimedia content on the EU.

The official channel of the European Parliament Research Center on Youtube. Here, an example of a video by the European Parliamentary Research Service, useful to assess the implementation status of the Employment Equality Directive (2000/78/EC) in 2016.


5. The dialectics of the decision-making process

PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS

These are the questions MEPs raise to other EU institutions and bodies as a direct instrument of the Parliament's control over other EU institutions and bodies.

Parliamentary questions are divided into three categories:

- questions for oral answer, examined during parliamentary sessions and scheduled as debates of the day, that may or may not lead to a resolution (art. 128);

- questions for the "Question Time", submitted during the allocated slot (art. 129);

-questions for written answer (art. 130).

5.1. The parliamentary question for oral answer (transcription)

Example of parliamentary question to Vladimír Špidla, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, from Claude Moraes, British MEP of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, on the horizontal directive against discrimination.

Answering the question, the Commissioner mentions issues emerging from the debate on the approval of the directive, such as the alleged breach of the principle of subsidiarity or the financial burden of its introduction. The issue of disparity in protection against discrimination also comes up in the exchange, and so does the EP's control role over the reception of the directives by Member States.

Debates
Wednesday, 9 July 2008 - StrasbourgOJ Edition

Subject: Anti-discrimination horizontal directive
 Answer 




  President. − Question No 46 by Claude Moraes (H-0427/08)

Subject: Anti-discrimination horizontal directive

The European Commission announced that this spring would see the launch of the new horizontal directive prohibiting discrimination.

What is the latest development regarding the scope of the directive? Will there be a far-reaching anti-discrimination directive including ALL of the remaining grounds of Article 13 of the Amsterdam Treaty – namely age, disability, religion or belief, and sexual orientation, as supported by a majority in the European Parliament?

If not, could the European Commission give its reasons, and outline its detailed plan of action for the coming months?

 


  Vladimír Špidla, Member of the Commission. − (CS) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, last week the Commission adopted a proposal for a directive which provides for protection from discrimination on grounds of age, disability, sexual orientation and religion or belief beyond the workplace. Discrimination on these grounds in employment and occupation is already covered by Directive 2000/78/EC. In this way we have fulfilled the commitment that we made, in front of you, at the beginning of our term of office. We have answered your repeated calls for such a proposal, last expressed during the part-session in May. This proposal for a directive is based on principles that Member States have already adopted in existing directives. For example, it contains provisions ensuring protection for victims of discrimination and dealing with harassment and victimisation, as well as provisions concerning the establishment of equality authorities. As I said earlier, the proposal for a directive provides for protection from discrimination on four basic discrimination grounds, but giving equal importance to all four of them does not mean that provisions concerning all these types of discrimination are equal.

The proposal for a directive therefore takes into account the specifics of each ground of discrimination so that the directive is as effective as possible. Specifically, it makes it possible, depending on the context, to take into account the age, and to consider the issue of age and disability in the insurance and banking sector, if this is adequate and reasonable, and I stress the words adequate and reasonable. This may never mean wilful exclusion of older or disabled persons from these sectors. In cases of disability, the principle of equal treatment is a positive commitment providing for general accessibility for disabled persons and carrying out appropriate adjustments in individual cases. Such measures do not represent a disproportionate burden. The proposal for a directive clearly states that account shall be taken of the size, nature and resources of the organisation, the estimated cost, the life cycle of goods and services, and the possible benefits of access for persons with disabilities. The proposal is an important step towards closing a huge loophole in non-discriminatory legislation.

Of course we realise that protection from discrimination on grounds of gender outside the workplace is not yet as strong as protection from discrimination on grounds of race. This is because Directive 2004/113/EC does not cover the area of education, as can be seen from the explanatory statement of this proposal. We think that it would be too premature to propose changes to said Directive, since the period for its implementation ended only recently. However, when we are preparing the implementation report in 2010, we can propose changes to the Directive if necessary. 


 


  Claude Moraes (PSE). Commissioner, this is an example of a question tabled some weeks ago which, very happily, received its positive answer on 1 July with your announcement. I think you should take personal credit for championing this within the Commission and for listening to the vote of the European Parliament.

Let me just ask you and the Commission to maintain your vigilance so that derogations and exemptions to the principle of equal treatment are not sought on just any grounds: they must be sought on necessary grounds and on genuine principles of subsidiarity, because we have seen transpositions of the Employment Directive and Race Equality Directive which were not complete and we must ensure that this good package becomes law in the Member States.


 


  Vladimír Špidla. − (CS) It is obvious that such a directive which is far-reaching and which protects the fundamental values of the European Union is often viewed differently and is often exposed, for various reasons, to pressure for its effectiveness to be limited. Being fully aware of this, the Commission prepared this complex proposal which we are of course ready to defend in further stages against any unjustified challenges.


 

  Syed Kamall (PPE-DE). - (EN) Could I ask the Commissioner to comment on British newspaper reports? Apparently, as reported in the press, anti-discrimination legislation does not currently apply to workers over the age of retirement, and people of retirement age or older are being legally sacked. Does the Commissioner have plans to tackle the British Government’s discrimination against older workers?


 


  Vladimír Špidla. − (CS) In general, the Directive protecting people who belong to the labour force also protects them from discrimination on grounds of age. I cannot make specific comments on the British newspaper report since it is, as always, qualified by the specific circumstances of the particular case. I can only say, with confidence, that in this regard there are no exceptions in this Directive, according to which protection no longer applies above a certain age.


5.2. The parliamentary question for written answer

The example of the question by Hugues Bayet, Belgian MEP from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, presented to the EU Council on January 27th, 2016:

“The proposal for a directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation has been blocked in the Council for too many years.

However, news reports show all too often that discrimination is still very much in evidence and is even on the rise in the European Union.

Could the Council say what initiatives it intends to take in the next six months so that progress can be made with this proposal?”.

The Council answered the question on April 11th, 2016 by stating that the proposal is under discussion, but the duration and outcome of such discussion cannot be predicted.

The answer also references the Council's latest Progress Report on the proposal on November 23rd, 2015.  

Elements for “further discussion” include:

- the general scope of the proposal - some delegations oppose the inclusion of social protection and education;

- aspects related to the division of competences and subsidiarity;

- certainty on the commitments deriving from the approval of the Directive.


6. Hearings

A committee can set up an expert hearing when this is deemed fundamental to working on a certain topic. Hearings can also be held jointly by two or more committees. Most committees organises regular hearings to consult experts on crucial topics.

Page about the hearings that contains all information available, including programmes, speeches, and precious preparatory documents. 

Take for example the multimedia material related to the hearing organised by the LIBE Committee in 2012 on the directive against discrimination: 

20-03-2012 - Unblocking the Anti-Discrimination Directive 

Speeches by: Pierre Baussand Social Platform, Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos, European Agency for Fundamental Rights; Svetoslav Hristov Malinov Group of the European People's Party; Isabelle Chopin, European Network of independent experts in the field of non-discrimination.


7. European Parliamentary Research Service

European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS)

It is the EP's internal research centre. It provides independent, objective analysis on specific questions, also available to the public for consultation. The service includes analysis and research carried out by request of the MEPs, as an answer to specific questions on EU topics, policy, and legislation. In addition to analysis and policy suggestions, the page contains summaries, tables, reports, and personal reports presented by MEPs on certain EU topics.

The EPRS also manages        

100 books                                           

Historical archive                                    

Citizens' requests for information

Access to documents                            

Transparency register

7.1. The EPRS Blog and the EP Think Tank

The blog of the European Parliament Research Service allows you to contact directly the team of specialists that assists MEPs in researching and drafting legislation. 


The EP Think Tank features all publications by the EP's research departments.


For instance, in 2014 the EP tasked its Think Tank with a study to facilitate the reaching of an agreement with Member States opposing the approval of the Horizontal Directive “Equal Treatment between Persons”.

8. Other sources

European Parliament / Register of Documents – reasoned opinions

According to the regulation (EC) n. 1049/2001 the European Parliament, the Council, and the Commission provide an online register of documents that - according to art. 15 of the TFEU - can be accessed by any EU citizen and any person resident in a Member State.                    

National Parliament opinions and Commission replies (EC database)

Here you can find the opinions of national Parliaments and the answers of the European Commission.

Public register of Council documents


Official documents

The database where you can find the official documents of all EU institutions and bodies.

N-Lex: A common gateway to national law

Here you can access the national legislative databases of individual Member States.

9. Other useful websites

ESPAS is a unique inter-institutional project, aimed at intensifying the EU's efforts in the crucial sector of prospective studies.

ORBIS- repository of foresight studies. It presents itself as the world's largest library of prospective studies. 

URBIS - repository of implementation studies. It gathers all materials from national Parliaments, regions, cities, and social actors. It is connected with the Commission's Work Programme.

Fact Sheets on the European Union

The Fact Sheets are a concise, yet exhaustive source of information that provides an overview of European integration and the EP's contribution to such process. They are regularly updated and can be consulted both in the Think Tank and Fact Sheets websites

EU Bookshop

All EU publications are available on the EU Bookshop: the online bookshop, library, and archive of EU institutions.

VoteWatch Europe 

This is an independent organisation that registers the votes of MEPs. It is not linked to the EP or other EU institutions, local or national governments, political parties, agencies, bodies linked to the business world or other sectors. It provides quick access to data and offers analysis of voting and other EP and EU Council activities.

EU Open Data Portal

The portal features a catalogue that allows you to access data of EU institutions and bodies. 

Eurobarometer 

This service by the European Commission measures and analyses the tendencies of public opinion in all Member States and candidate countries.

In the Special Eurobarometer section you can find the latest EU research (2015) on discrimination.