Subsidiarity and Proportionality: Task Force presents recommendations on a new way of working to President Juncker

Juncker 2018

© European Union , 2017 / Source: EC – Audiovisual Service / Photo: Mauro Bottaro

This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.

Today the Task Force on Subsidiarity, Proportionality and ‘Doing Less, More Efficiently’, chaired by First Vice-President Timmermans, handed over its final report to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The report responds to three questions put forward by the President when creating the Task Force in November 2017: how to better apply subsidiarity and proportionality principles within the EU institutions; how to better involve regional and local authorities and national parliaments in EU policymaking and implementation; and whether there are policy areas where powers could be returned over time to Member States.

President Juncker said today: “I want our Union to have a stronger focus on things that matter to our citizens. This is why this Commission has sought to be big on the big issues and small on the small ones. And it is why I set up a Task Force on Subsidiarity and Proportionality and ‘Doing Less More Efficiently’, to make sure we are only acting where the EU adds value. I want to thank Frans Timmermans and the other Task Force members from the national Parliaments and from the European Committee of the Regions for this important Report. Our Union cannot be built without the active and equal participation of local authorities, EU institutions and every level of government in between. I will draw conclusions in my State of the Union speech in September. I hope the leaders of the other institutions and national authorities will join me in putting these reflections at the heart of the future work of our Union.”

The Task Force members stated: “We advocate a new way of working that gives a stronger voice to local, regional and national authorities in EU policymaking, to improve the quality and effectiveness of legislation. This means fully respecting the roles of the different EU institutions, national, regional and local authorities and national Parliaments. We propose a new “active subsidiarity” approach that will ensure the added value of EU legislation, the benefits for citizens, and will lead to greater ownership of Union decisions in the Member States. We have presented our report to President Juncker who has ensured us that he will work with the other institutions to take forward our recommendations”.

The Task Force concluded that a new way of working on subsidiarity and proportionality is needed to allow local and regional authorities and national Parliaments to make a more effective contribution to EU policymaking and in the design of new legislation. The proposed new approach would see subsidiarity and proportionality being assessed more consistently by all levels of government, on the basis of a “model grid” – comparable to a subsidiarity and proportionality checklist.

The Task Force also recommends applying flexibly the 8 weeks deadline for national Parliaments to submit their opinions on draft EU legislation, and raises the possibility of a future increase of the time available for submitting an opinion to 12 weeks. Lastly, the Task Force recommends that the three EU institutions agree on a focused multi-annual programme that would promote a rebalancing of the EU’s work in some policy areas towards more effective implementation of existing legislation and away from initiating new legislation. This builds on the introduction, by the Juncker Commission, of much more targeted Commission Work programmes and annual Joint Declarations agreed among the three institutions on the priority files for adoption that year.

The Task Force believes the new approach should be applied to the existing body of European Union legislation and to all new political initiatives. Stakeholders made a number of suggestions to the Task Force on EU legislation and policies where a review of the subsidiarity and proportionality criteria could be launched. The Commission will take account of these suggestions in its future work.

Background

The Task Force on Subsidiarity, Proportionality and ‘Doing Less More Efficiently’ was established by the President Juncker in November 2017. He asked the Task Force to look at 3 issues: (1) the role of local and regional authorities in policymaking and implementation of European Union policies; (2) the role of subsidiarity and proportionality in the work of the Union’s institutions and bodies; (3) whether responsibility for particular policies areas should be re-delegated to the Member States.

The Task Force met 7 times to discuss the 3 questions. On the basis of these discussions, a public hearing and input from numerous stakeholders, the Task Force report presents 9 recommendations together with concrete implementation measures. The recommendations are addressed to national Parliaments, national, regional and local authorities, the European Parliament, the Council, the European Committee of the Regions and the European Commission.

Chaired by the European Commission’s First Vice-President, Frans Timmermans, the Task Force includes 3 members from the Committee of the Regions – President Karl-Heinz Lambertz (Belgium), Michael Schneider (Germany) and François Decoster (France) – and 3 members from National Parliaments – Toomas Vitsut (Estonia), Kristian Vigenin (Bulgaria) and Reinhold Lopatka (Austria).

The Austrian Presidency of the EU will organise a conference on subsidiarity in Bregenz in November, which will provide an opportunity to further discuss the Task Force report and consider how to take forward its recommendations, in the light of the State of the Union Address of 12 September 2018.

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