Open Europe Blog

The European Commission has just been shown its second ever ‘yellow card’. Remember, this is the provision introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, stating that if one third or more national parliaments object to an EU proposal on subsidiarity grounds (within an eight week window), then the Commission has to reconsider the proposal. In theory, the Commission can choose to ignore parliaments (one of our long-standing criticisms of the mechanisms). However, in fairness, the last time the yellow card was issued – in the case of the so-called ‘Monti II’ Regulation on the right to strike – the Commission did scrap the thing.

National parliaments from eleven EU member states – the UK, Czech Republic, Cyprus, France, Hungary, Ireland, Malta, Netherlands, Sweden, Romania and Slovenia – have now complained that plans for a European Public Prosecutor Office (EPPO) breach the subsidiarity principle.

According to the Lisbon Treaty, the establishment of the EPPO requires unanimity, and the UK would have sought to opt out, but that also means that other EU countries could have pressed ahead with this without Britain.

So the move is still significant for a few reasons:

  • It is another example of how national parliaments are increasingly pushing back against EU centralisation, and how little appetite there is for ‘ever closer union’ (the Commission’s proposal was limited, with the prosecutor only being responsible for investigating fraud involving EU funds).
  • It shows national parliaments can agree. In total, 15 chambers from eleven EU member states objected to the idea. Bear in mind that an objection raised by a chamber from a country whose parliament is unicameral (e.g. Sweden or Cyprus) counts as two votes. Therefore, to some extent, it counters the argument that a new ‘red card’ system allowing a group of national parliaments to block unwanted EU proposals – which we have supported for a while – would not work because national parliaments would not get their act together. 

The ball is now in the European Commission’s court. It will take quite a bit of nerve to ignore 15 more or less democratically elected chambers (*ehum*) in Europe….

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