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BRUSSELS — The European Parliament plans to modernize the structure of its committees to keep pace with legislation coming from the EU executive.
According to provisional plans, outlined in a September 13 “reflection paper,” the number of plenary committees would be reduced from 20 to 15, and would include new panels dedicated to EU enlargement, digital policies, health and defense.
The document was prepared by officials working for Parliament and seen by POLITICO.
“The world has changed, everything has changed, just like the way the Commission (presents) legislation with very broad and transversal proposals and our structure can no longer cope,” declared the Secretary General of the European Parliament, Alessandro Chiocchetti , to MPs last month. “Our structures are obsolete.”
One of the motivations behind this proposal is to neutralize the time-consuming infighting between MPs who chair committees over who takes charge of the various legislative files that affect their area.
“The complexity of the legislation has increased and that is why it is sometimes not entirely clear which commission is responsible for what. It therefore makes sense to improve the situation as it is,” said Bernd Lange , a German social-democrat MEP who chairs the committee conference. chairs.
“Partly because of the way the European Commission is organized, the number of jurisdictional conflicts… has increased significantly over the last 15 years,” says the discussion paper, first seen by Euractiv.
To avoid these conflicts, Parliament should form 15 new comprehensive committees covering a hodgepodge of policy areas, the paper suggests. A new mega-committee on digital policy would “eliminate the largest source of jurisdictional disputes.”
The subcommittee on security and defense would become a full committee that would also deal with the arms industry and the fight against foreign interference, thus eliminating more sources of tension between senior MEPs .
The document also suggests merging climate and energy into a single committee, merging international trade and development into a single entity and putting EU expansion at the forefront in a new international affairs committee and of enlargement.
However, the newspaper says some of its ideas – such as mixing health and food safety in an entirely new panel – would likely lead to further infighting.
Anna Cavazzini, a German Green MEP who chairs the internal market committee, said that while she favored reform in general, she did not think the proposed restructuring would resolve jurisdictional conflicts.
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“I think it’s probably to make it a little sexier,” she said.
Cavazzini also warned that this could be an attempt to weaken more progressive commissions like those on the environment and civil liberties that deal with migration. “Some of the proposals are, in my opinion, politically motivated,” she said.
Fellow German Green MP Daniel Freund criticized the suggestion of mixing the budget and budget control committees, saying it would mean less time to monitor how the EU spends its money.
The document is “food for thought for political groups to start discussions within the groups”, said a European Parliament official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Parliament 2024 working group of MEPs and senior civil servants, chaired by Parliament President Roberta Metsola, has met 18 times since January to develop internal reforms that should be in place by the time the next assembly of MEPs will sit after the June 2024 elections.
“The big reform requires us to engage in a very in-depth debate about where we envision Parliament in 2024, how to become more efficient, how to become more efficient, how to become more modern?,” she told POLITICO. in a recent exclusive interview.
She said the European Parliament has taken inspiration from the national parliaments of Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom and will now establish its committees before selecting candidates for European commissioners, rather than after.
“In all other parliaments, when a government is elected, commissions are created and that is what we want to do,” Metsola said.
The document also proposes scrapping the four subcommittees and replacing them with “special committees,” on topics such as human rights, gender equality and constitutional affairs.
Another document dated September 8, also seen by POLITICO, suggests reducing the practice of committees sending “opinions” to governing committees and also suggests the creation of ad hoc committees to deal with legislation that would naturally fall under the purview of three or more commissions. .
Lange, who is part of the parliamentary reforms working group, said these types of structures would be able to handle legislation on topics such as artificial intelligence or corporate due diligence in supply chains.
He also wants to put an end to “totally senseless” quarrels between committees for exclusive jurisdiction over a paragraph, or even a single sentence of a legislative text.
“This is why we want to have easier possibilities to have joint commissions on specific files,” he said.
All of the task force’s reforms are to be reviewed by the leaders of Parliament’s seven political groups, before being finalized in April next year.