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The EU legislative process

Posted by malcolm on Friday, February 3rd, 2012 at 13:56

How does EU legislation get made, and what opportunities do outsiders have to influence it? Most people know that the Commission proposes legislation, that the Parliament gets the chance to make amendments, and that nothing gets on the statute books without the approval of the Council of Ministers.

But did you know that if the Commission opposes a Parliamentary amendment it can only be adopted by the Council of Ministers if they’re unanimously in favour too? Did you know that absolutely any MEP can table an amendment while a proposal is going through Committee, but you need the backing of an entire political grouping to table an amendment in at the plenary stage?

It’s pretty complex stuff, and easy to see why so many people get overwhelmed. A large number of lobbyists public affairs consultancies exist to give professional support to companies that need to navigate the process.

EDRi, the online civil rights campaign group, has written a booklet Activist Guide to the Brussels Maze explaining the process fully, with detailed advice on the opportunities to influence the process. They’ve avowedly written this to help make their activist base more effective, but if you can get past the odd sneers about “large industries [that] devote large lobbying resources” the booklet is actually an extremely readable guide to the policy process for everyone, not just for activists.

Taking the reader through policy formation starting with the main drivers why the Commission makes proposals in first place, the booklet identifies the key institutions and individual roles that need to be persuaded to influence policy and, crucially, when they get their moment of power.

Every institution is very poweful and influential at certain moments and very much a spectator at other moments

— Activist Guide to the Brussels Maze

A short glossary at the back covers the most important jargon, but the booklet itself is so jargon-free this glossary isn’t as extensive as might have been useful. 

This booklet is well worth a read if you ever want to take part in shaping legislative outcomes, or working with those who do. Click on the image to download it the PDF.

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