Time to acton the Future of Europe… www.act4europe.org
Overview • The why and how of ENGOs • EU Institutions and their relevance • Constitution Process • Participatory Democracy
Why is the EU relevant for NGOs • Impact: the Hungarian village’s relevance. • Exceptional openness for dialogue, the special nature of some EU institutions. • Complicated subject matter and expertise. • Solidarity and information exchange on joint issues or minorities – the power of accumulated voices. • Powerful role of national members of ENGOs holding their government to account, scrutinizing national and European responsibility.Pushing Presidency to put points of concern on the agenda, give money, and invite ENGOs to important Council meetings.
EU NGO Structure • There are hundreds of thousands of NGOs in the European Union and beyond. • Many are organised on the European level (umbrella networks). Generally ENGOs are based on added value and membership representation principle. • Each sector of NGOs has created its own European platform or representation. • Cross-sectoral platform (CSCG) on horizontal issues (only added value approach)
Civil Society Contact Group 1 representative asObserver 2 representatives 1 representative asObserver CSCG 2 representatives 2 representatives 2 representatives 2 representatives
Establishing a cross-sectoral dialogue during the Constitutional process • To bring CSCG’s vision out of Brussels and make information accessible • To build a working alliance of NGOs and Unions all over Europe • To give substance to the concept of participatory democracy and civil dialogue
Next Steps • Establishing lasting partnerships and fostering cross-sectoral cooperation in New Member States. • Providing analysis of the new Constitution and information on the process of ratification. • NGO conference on Civil Dialogue • NGO toolkit on Civil Dialogue and ratification • NGO training seminars on access to EU debates • Study on Participatory Democracy
European Institutions • European Commission • College of Commissioners • Cabinets • Directorate Generals • Advisory Committees • Sole right of initiative (apart from intergovernmental areas – e.g. CFSP) • Committed itself to developing better governance, broader consultation and civil dialogue (Barroso re-newed emphasis) • White Paper on Governance • Minimum Standards of Consultation • New Article I-47 of European Constitution • Statistics and EU programme summaries • Calls for tender and projects proposals. Core-funding for ENGOs. • Council of the EU • National governments, structured into “Councils” • Legislative and executive role • Presidency 6-monthly rotation between Member States. Currently the Netherlands. • Permanent Representations • COREPER (+ approx. 250 committees) • European Parliament • 732 MEPs, only directly elected Body • Committees (20; rapporteurs) • Political Groups • Intergroups • Legislative, budgetary, and supervisory powers - Expansion of co-decision in Constitution.
European Economic and Social Committee and Council of Regions • EESC: Rather marginalized role in decision-making, but obliged to give evaluation of legislative proposals. Organized in 3 groups, employers, employees, diverse interests. For NGOs not representative because government appointed – New ENGO Liaison Group • CoR: representing the federal structures of many countries, little official influence, but a lot of background influence.
European Law • Complicated and easy • Three pillars • Many European Communities and the European Union • Soft and hard law
Decision-making in the EU The Council • Passes laws • Co-ordination of • Economic policies • Approval of EU budget European Commission Legislative proposal • Right of innitiative/ propose legislation • Implementation of EU • Policies and budget • Enforcement of • EU law European Parliament • Shares with the Council: • Decision • Authority over the EU budget.
Decision–making procedures of EU between the European Parliament and the Council Every European law is based on a specific treaty article, referred to as the “legal basis” of thelegislation (the article that gives the EC the authorisation to act in a specific field). The European Commission, when proposing a new law, must choose which decision-making procedure to follow, and the choice will depend on which Treaty article the proposal is based on. • Consultationprocedure: Parliament merely gives its opinion. If Parliament asks for amendments, the Commission will consider all the changes Parliament suggests. If it accepts any of these suggestions it will send the Council an amended proposal. • Assent: The procedure is the same as in the case of consultation, except that Parliament cannot amend a proposal - it must either accept or reject it. • Codecision procedure: Parliament genuinely shares power with the Council. The Commission sends its proposal to both institutions. They each read and discuss it twice in succession. If they cannot agree on it, it is put before a "conciliation committee", composed of equal numbers of Council and Parliament representatives.
Decision-making in the Council Qualified majority voting (QMV): The most common form of voting procedure. The number of votes each country can cast are different and depend on the population size of the Member State. • Until 1st of May 2004 it requires 62 out of 87 votes. • From November 2004, a qualified majority will be if a majority of Member States and if a specified minimum number of votes is cast in favour. The actual number will depend on how many new Member States have joined, but cannot acceed 73,4% (10 New MS: 253 out of 345 votes). • In addition, a Member State may request verification that the Member States constituting the qualified majority represent at least 62 % of the total population of the Union. If that condition is shown not to have been met, the decision in question shall not be adopted. • Constitution: 55% of Member States and 65% of population. Unanimity: Consensus !
Constitution Debate and ENGOs • Many EU umbrella networks monitored and lobbied • All NGO sectors monitored and lobbied • 4 NGO sectors got together to give Civil Society as a whole a strong voice – act4europe to involve national NGOs • Civil Society Hearing vs traditional lobbying • Closed IGC process – but successful campaigns
European Constitutional Treaty – Outcome • Acquis achieved • Big steps: Values, Objectives, Participatory Democracy, Charter, Horizontal Clauses, exclusion Euratom, EP power increase, Transparency, easier legal concept …. “it might maybe work?” “better than Nice?” • Problems: Part III inclusion, no thorough reform, lack of European movement behind it.
Article I-47 Participatory Democracy 1. The Union Institutions shall, by appropriate means, give citizens and representative associations the opportunity to make known and publicly exchange their views on all areas of Union action. 2. The Union Institutions shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society. 3. The Commission shall carry out broad consultations with parties concerned in order to ensure that the Union's actions are coherent and transparent.
Art. I-47 Participatory Democracy 4. Not less than one million citizens who are nationals of a significant number of Member States may take the initiative of inviting the Commission, within the framework of its powers, to submit any appropriate proposal on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Constitution. European laws shall determine the provisions for the procedures and conditions required for such a citizens’ initiative, including the minimum number of Member States from which such citizens must come.
Participatory Democracy • Civil Dialogue – a tool of participatory democracy • Participatory Democracy is complimentary to Representative Democracy • Civil Society and its organisations – important stakeholders, monitoring of people’s needs, add value to the political process. Recognition of ‘subsidiarity’. • Horizontal dialogue between different parts of Civil Society on areas of general interest promotes social cohesion.
Participatory Democracy • Implementing Art I-47 must focus on both contentand structure. • Content should be guided along values and objectives and along areas of “exclusion” that are of high concern to a large number of citizens • In terms of structure real participation and a meaningful dialogue need:
Participatory Democracy • An enabling environment • Information • Representativity • Resources • Application throughout the policy process • Access • Transparency • Evaluation
Time to acton the Future of Europe… www.act4europe.org