Initiative, right of
- EU Commission (Photo: www1.american.edu/dlublin/travel/brussels1.html)
In advanced democracies, the power of initiative is also one of the basic citizens' political rights.
In the EU, the EU Commission has the sole and exclusive right to bring forward proposals for EU laws. This makes the EU Commission a legislative machine for the continual production of EU laws. Except for these indirectly appointed commissioners, no person on earth has the exclusive right to propose European laws.
The EU Commission also decides the legal basis for its proposal and thus decides whether an area is to be regulated by binding laws or voluntary coordination.
The EU Commission's choice concerning a law’s legal basis and its legislative proposals can only be changed by a unanimous decision of the Council.
- If this system is beneficial, either from the point of view of efficiency or democracy, one wonders why member states have not forbidden their parliaments to propose laws and have not given this monopoly to senior civil servants.
- The EU Commission and the European Parliament are very keen on keeping the EU Commission monopoly in order to preserve a strong supra-national institution as the motor for ever greater EU integration. Supra-national bodies, the EU Commission, the European Parliament and the EU Court of Justice, have a natural joint interest in this. The extension of supra-nationalism and EU powers competence gives each of these institutions further power at the expense of national parliaments and electorates. It also increases the powers of the EU Court.
- The EU Commission is supposed to represent the common interest of the EU as a whole in its role as "Guardian of the treaties", and to ensure that all member states, even the smallest, have their interests taken into account in proposals for new EU laws. Many smaller EU countries regard the EU Commission as their ally and therefore tend to support a strong EU Commission with its monopoly on initiating EU laws.
The Lisbon Treaty has maintained the EU Commission's exclusive right of initative, but within the areas of justice and home affairs and foreign policy, other rules apply: There, according to the Lisbon Treaty, a group consisting of 25% of the member states can also propose a law.
In foreign policy majority voting rules are used when the EU's Foreign Minister/High Representative - who is also the Vice-President of the EU Commission - makes a proposal at the specific request of the European Council.
Lisbon Treaty has also introduced a citizen’s initiative. 1,000,000 citizens can sign a petition and ask the Commission to take an initiative. The Commission is not obliged to act.