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States of emergency in response to the coronavirus crisis: Situation in certain Member States IV

07-07-2020

With the virulence of the coronavirus pandemic gradually diminishing, and in the light of the restrictive measures adopted by Member States, attention remains on the way chosen by the various states to respond to the crisis. With states at various stages of relaxing emergency constraints, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic are likely to last in terms of health, economic, social, psychological and possibly even political impact. Although public attention is now turned towards the widely differing ...

With the virulence of the coronavirus pandemic gradually diminishing, and in the light of the restrictive measures adopted by Member States, attention remains on the way chosen by the various states to respond to the crisis. With states at various stages of relaxing emergency constraints, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic are likely to last in terms of health, economic, social, psychological and possibly even political impact. Although public attention is now turned towards the widely differing measures that states are taking in order to live with the virus, new challenges are emerging as international and domestic traffic, trade and free movement of people are re-established, having been all but frozen. In this context, it is still necessary to complete the overview of Member States' constitutional frameworks in response to the coronavirus pandemic with the hope that this might offer some guidance or insight, should a comparable crisis arise in the future. This is the last in a series of four briefings and completes the comparative overview of Member States' institutional responses to the coronavirus crisis by analysing the legislation of Cyprus, Czechia, Greece, Ireland, Lithuania and Slovakia. The first in the series gave an overview of the responses in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Spain, the second covered Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Malta, Romania and Slovenia, while the third covered Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden.

Conference on the Future of Europe

11-06-2020

Announced by Ursula von der Leyen and supported by Parliament, the Conference on the Future of Europe was supposed to offer the opportunity for a thorough reflection on the direction of the EU and its institutional set up. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has halted the preparation process, with the result that the three institutions have not yet agreed on the format, composition and structure of the Conference. Parliament is nevertheless fully engaged in resuming this initiative as soon as possible ...

Announced by Ursula von der Leyen and supported by Parliament, the Conference on the Future of Europe was supposed to offer the opportunity for a thorough reflection on the direction of the EU and its institutional set up. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has halted the preparation process, with the result that the three institutions have not yet agreed on the format, composition and structure of the Conference. Parliament is nevertheless fully engaged in resuming this initiative as soon as possible in the post-coronavirus context, and will debate the issue with the Council and Commission during the June plenary session.

States of emergency in response to the coronavirus crisis: Situation in certain Member States

04-05-2020

With the first case of unknown pneumonia reported in the province of Wuhan (People's Republic of China) on 31 December 2019, within few weeks the coronavirus (Covid-19) was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 30 January 2020. Since then it has spread to most corners of the globe. While the health threat it poses and the challenge it represents for human health is paramount, no less important is the strain it puts on the legal order. For most of the affected countries, in particular ...

With the first case of unknown pneumonia reported in the province of Wuhan (People's Republic of China) on 31 December 2019, within few weeks the coronavirus (Covid-19) was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 30 January 2020. Since then it has spread to most corners of the globe. While the health threat it poses and the challenge it represents for human health is paramount, no less important is the strain it puts on the legal order. For most of the affected countries, in particular in the EU, this outbreak is posing unprecedented institutional challenges and has obliged institutions and governments to adopt strict measures affecting citizens' rights in a way unparalleled since the Second World War. While some Member States' constitutions include mechanisms allowing for recourse to a 'state of emergency' or the entrustment of special powers to specific institutions, other Member States' legal orders do not, either for historic reasons or owing to institutional tradition. Crucial aspects of the exercise of public powers under a pandemic threat include not only the extent of the measures adopted, but also their legitimacy, raising the question of their duration and of the degree of parliamentary oversight. This briefing is the first in a series intended to offer a comparative overview of the institutional responses adopted in different Member States, in the light of i) the constitutional framework for the state of emergency or legitimation of the emergency legislation ii) the specific measures adopted, iii) the extent of the parliamentary oversight exercised over the measures adopted. This first briefing, therefore, offers an overview of the responses to the coronavirus pandemic in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Spain.

Parliament's right of legislative initiative

12-02-2020

The European Commission has a near monopoly on legislative initiative in the European Union (EU), with special initiative rights for other institutions applying only in certain specific cases. However, the European Parliament and the Council may invite the Commission to submit legislative proposals. Whilst this 'indirect' initiative right does not create an obligation on the Commission to propose the legislation requested, the Treaty of Lisbon codified the Commission's obligation to provide reasons ...

The European Commission has a near monopoly on legislative initiative in the European Union (EU), with special initiative rights for other institutions applying only in certain specific cases. However, the European Parliament and the Council may invite the Commission to submit legislative proposals. Whilst this 'indirect' initiative right does not create an obligation on the Commission to propose the legislation requested, the Treaty of Lisbon codified the Commission's obligation to provide reasons for any refusal to follow a parliamentary initiative. Against this backdrop, some argue that Parliament could take the Commission to the Court of Justice of the EU if it fails to justify a negative decision. Others see Parliament's increasing participation in overall political planning – particularly through negotiations on the Commission's annual work programme (CWP) – as a further channel for Parliament to increase its influence on EU legislation. It is thus argued that the increased role of Parliament in the legislative procedure should have reduced the need for its Members to make use of legislative initiatives. Notwithstanding that, there is a trend towards greater use of formal parliamentary legislative initiatives to assert greater influence on the political process. Most recently, in her inaugural address in July 2019 and in her Political Guidelines, the then newly elected President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, pledged to strengthen the partnership with the European Parliament, inter alia, by responding with a proposal for a legislative act whenever Parliament, acting by a majority of its members, adopts a resolution requesting that the Commission submit legislative proposals. She added that this commitment would have to be in full respect of the proportionality, subsidiarity and better law-making principles. President von der Leyen also declared herself supportive of moves towards recognition of a right for Parliament of legislative initiative. This briefing is an update of a European Parliament Library briefing from 2013, by Eva-Maria Poptcheva.

Preparing the Conference on the Future of Europe

03-12-2019

After the many debates and declarations of principles on the future of Europe of recent years, the time for a more structured reflection on the future of Europe's development has arrived. The new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen has pledged to establish a Conference on the Future of Europe, in an effort to give new impulse to European construction and bring Europe closer to citizens. At this stage, details of this initiative are still up for discussion. For Dubravka Šuica ...

After the many debates and declarations of principles on the future of Europe of recent years, the time for a more structured reflection on the future of Europe's development has arrived. The new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen has pledged to establish a Conference on the Future of Europe, in an effort to give new impulse to European construction and bring Europe closer to citizens. At this stage, details of this initiative are still up for discussion. For Dubravka Šuica, the Commissioner who will take charge of the process, the inclusion of all citizens' voices will be an essential characteristic of the Conference. However, how to ensure that European citizens are properly represented remains to be clarified. Preparation of the Conference, in von der Leyen's approach, will follow three steps: first, the elaboration of the concept, structure, timing and scope with Parliament and Council; then, design of a means to ensure that citizens participate as much as possible, including by fostering online participation for younger people; and last, making sure that appropriate follow-up is provided to the actions agreed by the Conference. The Parliament has created a working group to contribute to the design of the Conference, in particular in respect of its structure, with a view to a vote in plenary. Parliament's Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) has also launched discussions, confirming the eagerness of Parliament and its political bodies to play an active part from the beginning of this process. The Conference on the Future of Europe should be an excellent opportunity to engage in more structured debate, with the intention to find concrete proposals to improve the way in which the EU works not only in terms of institutional dynamics, but also of its policies. Some have however cautioned that the initiative needs to be carried out with the utmost care, in particular on the follow-up to be given to its outcomes, so that it can remain a meaningful endeavour.

Commission as 'caretaker administration'

24-10-2019

The hearings of the Commissioners-designate before the European Parliament’s committees took place between 30 September and 8 October 2019. The plenary vote on the entire Commission was originally planned for 23 October in Strasbourg, after a presentation by the Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen of the full College and its programme. However, three Commissioners-designate did not successfully complete the hearings process, making it necessary for three Member States to nominate new ...

The hearings of the Commissioners-designate before the European Parliament’s committees took place between 30 September and 8 October 2019. The plenary vote on the entire Commission was originally planned for 23 October in Strasbourg, after a presentation by the Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen of the full College and its programme. However, three Commissioners-designate did not successfully complete the hearings process, making it necessary for three Member States to nominate new candidates and for committees to carry out new hearings. The new Commission will not, therefore, now be able to enter into office on 1 November, as scheduled. The outgoing Commission will thus remain in office until the formal appointment of its replacement, although questions arise as to its powers in that period.

European Union electoral law: Current situation and historical background

17-10-2019

The European Parliament did not always enjoy the powers and democratic legitimacy it does now. This is clear from a quick glance at how Parliament has evolved. Starting life as an Assembly – a name reminiscent of institutions linked to international diplomacy – with members simply appointed by national parliaments of Member States, it grew into an institution, the European Parliament, directly elected by citizens and now the only one representing EU citizens directly. This transformation has taken ...

The European Parliament did not always enjoy the powers and democratic legitimacy it does now. This is clear from a quick glance at how Parliament has evolved. Starting life as an Assembly – a name reminiscent of institutions linked to international diplomacy – with members simply appointed by national parliaments of Member States, it grew into an institution, the European Parliament, directly elected by citizens and now the only one representing EU citizens directly. This transformation has taken several decades. Despite Parliament's increased role, the current electoral rules remain only partly harmonised, to the extent that there is no uniform electoral process for all Member States. The current situation is that certain fundamental principles are enshrined in the 1976 Electoral Act, but many aspects are regulated by national law. This lack of a uniform electoral process also leads to differences in treatment between EU citizens depending on their country of origin and potentially deprives European elections of a truly European dimension. Several reforms of the EU electoral system have been attempted over the years, but not all have resulted in legislation. The introduction of a transnational constituency in particular is a perennially controversial issue. Some consider it a step towards the genuine 'Europeanisation' of elections, others believe that it could increase the distance between the public and elected representatives. While the co-existence of differing electoral rules under the aegis of common European principles is probably destined to last, the latest reform – adopted in 2018 – will bring in mechanisms designed to increase public participation in the EU political debate and make the appointment of one of the top EU leadership roles, president of the European Commission, more 'political', by means of the Spitzenkandidaten process.

Role and election of the President of the European Commission

12-07-2019

The President of the European Commission has taken on an ever more prominent leading role within the College of Commissioners, with the increasingly presidential system eclipsing the principle of collegiate decision-making. With the European Parliament now more involved in the appointment, the Presidency has not only become a much more politicised office, but the President has also gained greater influence vis-à-vis the other members of the Commission. The Commission President plays a crucial role ...

The President of the European Commission has taken on an ever more prominent leading role within the College of Commissioners, with the increasingly presidential system eclipsing the principle of collegiate decision-making. With the European Parliament now more involved in the appointment, the Presidency has not only become a much more politicised office, but the President has also gained greater influence vis-à-vis the other members of the Commission. The Commission President plays a crucial role in relations between Parliament and Commission. Presenting his or her priorities to Parliament prior to election sets the course for the whole term, on which the President will be called to account by Parliament. Building on this, Parliament has an increasingly prominent role in political agenda-setting, shaping the EU's legislative programming together with the Commission and the Council. At the end of President Barroso's second term as Commission President, many had criticised the lack of ambitious initiatives undertaken, whereas others believe that the economic and institutional difficulties which the EU faced made this inevitable. The legacy of President Juncker's mandate can claim, on the one hand, to show progress in trade and defence, although some maintain that more ambition could have been displayed in other areas, for instance on the digital market or monetary union. On the other hand, the Juncker Commission introduced some significant changes in the College's working methods and a more political role for the Commission. Whereas Jean-Claude Juncker had been a Spitzenkandidat (lead candidate) in the European elections, Ursula von der Leyen, nominated as candidate for the Commission presidency by the European Council on 2 July, was not. As none of the Spitzenkandidaten were seen to have a clear majority in Parliament, it remains to be seen whether an 'outsider' from that process can muster the support of the required majority of Parliament's component Members at the time of the election, currently planned for the July II plenary session. This is an updated edition of a 2014 briefing drafted by Eva-Maria Poptcheva.

Understanding the d'Hondt method: Allocation of parliamentary seats and leadership positions

28-06-2019

The allocation of seats in collegiate organs such as parliaments requires a method to translate votes proportionally into whole seats. The 'd'Hondt method' is a mathematical formula used widely in proportional representation systems, although it leads to less proportional results than other systems for seat allocation such as the Hare-Niemeyer and Sainte-Laguë/Schepers methods. Moreover, it tends to increase the advantage for the electoral lists which gain most votes to the detriment of those with ...

The allocation of seats in collegiate organs such as parliaments requires a method to translate votes proportionally into whole seats. The 'd'Hondt method' is a mathematical formula used widely in proportional representation systems, although it leads to less proportional results than other systems for seat allocation such as the Hare-Niemeyer and Sainte-Laguë/Schepers methods. Moreover, it tends to increase the advantage for the electoral lists which gain most votes to the detriment of those with fewer votes. It is, however, effective in facilitating majority formation and thus in securing parliamentary operability. The d'Hondt method is used by 16 EU Member States for the elections to the European Parliament. Furthermore, it is also used within the Parliament as a formula for distributing the chairs of the parliamentary committees and delegations, as well as to distribute those posts among the national delegations within some political groups. Such proportional distribution of leadership positions within Parliament prevents domination of parliamentary political life by only one or two large political groups, ensuring smaller political groups also have a say on the political agenda. Some argue however that this limits the impact of the election results on the political direction of decision-making within Parliament and call for a 'winner-takes-all' approach instead. Many national parliaments in the EU also distribute committee chairs and other posts proportionally among political groups (either using the d'Hondt method or more informally). Other Member States, however, apply a 'winner-takes-more' approach with only some committee chairs with particular relevance to government scrutiny being reserved for opposition groups, while in the US House of Representatives committee chairs all come from the majority.

Electing the European Parliament's President

19-06-2019

At the July I plenary sitting, the newly elected European Parliament (EP) is due to elect its 31st President, to hold office until mid-term at the beginning of 2022, when a new election for Parliament’s President will be held. The President has an important and increasingly visible function in the EU institutional and international setting, mirroring the influential role of the Parliament as shaper of EU policies and co-legislator.

At the July I plenary sitting, the newly elected European Parliament (EP) is due to elect its 31st President, to hold office until mid-term at the beginning of 2022, when a new election for Parliament’s President will be held. The President has an important and increasingly visible function in the EU institutional and international setting, mirroring the influential role of the Parliament as shaper of EU policies and co-legislator.

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