I rarely agree to be “rapporteur” in the European Parliament, because any report I draft will be so mangled by amendments in Committee that I should be ashamed to see my name on it. However, a few weeks ago the secretariat of the Petitions Committee approached my office asking if I could author an opinion to comment on a report published by the European Commission, and this time, against my better judgement, I agreed.
It was a report on the implementation of EU law by member-states, from the perspective of the Petitions Committee. I had a look through it and was astonished to see that in 2011 EU Member States had to transpose 131 directives — that’s one directive every two working days!
Despite my assistant clearly explaining the line that I should want to see, the draft text proposed by the Secretariat offered statements like “the right to petition the European Parliament is one of the fundamental pillars of European citizenship” and referred to “the need of increasing public participation in the European Union’s decision-making process”. So, despite the best efforts of the Secretariat, I decided to rewrite the proposal completely, and to say just what I really thought. It is sure to be heavily amended in Committee, so I may as well say what I think and be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.
I started with a new “recital” (as it called), asserting that “The Right to Petition the European parliament is simply a cosmetic device intended to give a spurious air of democratic legitimacy to the concept of “European Citizenship”, and thus to the essentially undemocratic and unaccountable EU institutions. Information campaigns carried out at national and EU level about the activities of the European Union are unjustified propaganda in the face of an increasingly negative popular view of the European project”.
I then made clear a few points about the application of European law. I pointed out that national administrations, already under strain, find it increasingly difficult to keep up with the transposition of a high number of pieces of legislation and that in the current economic situation, and with the massive costs of EU regulation, there is an urgent need for a dramatic pruning of the acquis communautaire, especially in the area of employment law.
Citizens, businesses and other stakeholders are entitled to a simple and predictable regulatory framework, so a reduction in bureaucracy and administrative burdens is needed.
Quite predictably, my re-edited version came as a nasty shock and the Secretariat, who invited me to reconsider the text “to ensure a broader consensus”. However, given the fact that the text will be amended anyhow, I explained that I should at least start out with a text I could support.
I also added a new recital on the Spanish property scandal: “Regrets the obduracy and recalcitrance of both the Commission and member states’ governments, for example in the case of Spanish property rights, where European citizens from many countries have for many years been denied basic rights of property and contract. This issue has been raised repeatedly in the Petitions Committee over at least fifteen years, yet neither the Commission nor the Spanish government has taken effective action nor offered any redress”. There is in fact considerable anger in the Petitions Committee over Spanish property, and a diluted version of this recital may survive the carnage in Committee.
Once again, it is clear that the current level of petitions reflects badly both on EU legislation and on its implementation. We are still creating new EU legislation faster than we can read it, or understand it, or implement it.