The Major Characteristics Of The Essay
Europe wide policy making became fashionable after the Second World War when there was a mood for cooperation and integration across mainland Europe. It was also becoming more and more important for European countries to work together with the development of internationalism and big government across the Americas, Australasia and Asia.
Joint policy making started off slowly in Europe but the pace of integration and collectivism increased rapidly over the following thirty to forty years post World War two.With the development of the high authority (the European Commission post 1970) and the installation of some forward thinking Presidents including Roy Jenkins and Jacque Delors the breath and advancement of EU policy control has increased threefold. The ability for the EU to make policy and form legislation connected with its policy recommendations in the majority of cases comes from the treaties. The treaties are the legislative documents binding members to the decisions of the Union and therefore allowing the Union to take the lead in policy areas as set down by the treaties.It could for example be argued that the power for the EU to formulate policy in relation to coal and steel originates from the Treaty of Paris and in relation to economic and monetary union it could be argued real policy power was given in 1992 at Maastricht.
The most important policy areas as viewed by the Union, the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Commercial Policy were given authority to formulate power under the EEC/EC Treaty.Articles 100 and 235 of the EEC/EC Treaty and Articles 94 and 308 post Amsterdam (’97) do however allow the EU to make policy on areas that are not directly connected to treaties this loophole does however have to be used in moderation. At present only environmental issues which are not directly covered by any one single treaty come under this remit and it is here that the Commission argues its power to formulate and enact policy comes from. The EU has a further option available to it when formulating policy agreements between nation states and the commission.
The European Political Cooperation group works alongside rather than inside the system. This group is made up of the larger member states and it allows them to discuss and formulate policy decisions and options before coming to full Council. It also allows for the formulation of policy outside the remit of the treaties as the controlling members states are usually involved in the discussions from the beginning. The role of National Governments within the policy process can be divided into a number of key regions. Before discussing these I believe it is important to define these regions.
The key regions are: the European Council made up of Heads of Government of the member states. The Council of Ministers; made up of member state Ministers responsible for the area up for discussion, the European Parliament; formed by the elected representatives of all EU countries and finally the Commission; the administrative hub and secretariat of the European Union. In most cases the European Commission will draw up a white paper for the consideration of the European Council, the formulation of this text is ambiguous to say the least.Usually the particular Commissioner with responsibility for subject area will formulate the text with his advisors and then bring the document to the full meeting of the Commissioners. It is impossible to say whether member states will have been involved at formulation time.
There is no set precedent on the involvement of member states however if the Commissioners feel the subject maybe controversial they will try and involve as many states as possible to stop their proposal being thrown out at the first hurdle.Once approved by the Commission the text passes to the European Council who then discuss and send the document to the European Parliament for consideration and amendment. The Parliament does not have full legislative powers but it does however has the ability to string out its discussions on the subject matter and to make as many amendments as it sees fit. The Parliament will usually send the draft text to committee first to discuss and if the legislation is controversial or important it will then be discussed by full session. Once the parliament has discussed the proposals the document will pass to the Council of Ministers.
In most cases the Council of Ministers doesn’t even wait for the Parliament to make its recommendations before it starts the process of discussing and amending the proposal. In the early stages the Council will usually send the text to committee, the committee generally made up of national specialists to work through the text in minute detail, ultimately it is vitally important these representatives look after the interests of their home country while trying to get a general agreement on the text at the same time. All policy proposals must be agreed by Council. There are a number of different processes for this to happen.Ultimately it all depends on the wording of the treaty which accompanies the text. The treaty may stipulate the necessity for a unanimous vote in council or just a vote in favour of a majority.
Sometimes when no agreement can be reached the Council will adjourn to allow members to meet in private to thrash out problems and issues before going back into full council to reach a conclusion. The most important words to be remembered in terms of European Politics and particularly policy making are reconciliation and cooperation; without either of these nothing would ever be achieved.In 1992 at Maastricht and then again at Amsterdam in 1997 the Council agreed to implement a new procedure into European Politics. The device is very similar to the guillotine device used by Governments in the United Kingdom. Article 189b/251 post Amsterdam allows for a time restriction to be put on debating time in relation to a piece of policy or legislation. This guillotine idea is to stop member states and the European Parliament from slowing down the work of the Union.
It requires certain pieces of legislation to be pushed through all areas of discussion and acceptance in a specified space of time.Initially this tool was only allowed to be used in relation to 15 areas however at Amsterdam this was increased to 37. One area that has always been of great controversy within the Union has been the Common Agricultural Policy. The CAP is one of the last bastions of the old style post war Europe policies to remain; hence it still causes many problems. Tony Blair describes the fact that Britain was not involved in the negotiations for the CAP as a “lost out opportunity”1.
Agriculture consumes half of the expenditure of the Union and Agriculture ministers meet more often than any other group.The Commasariat which deals with Agriculture employs more than any other policy area. The main bulk of the CAP is still as written in 1957 and approved by the Council in 1960. In terms of modern policy relating to the CAP both the Commission and Minister are bound to try and tinker with the current system rather than be able to create a new policy. Policy formulation in this area is known to be particularly difficult because it is a situation of playing round the edges rather than dealing with the main problem. Deliberating on policy is not an option under the rules of the CAP.
The legislation surrounding CAP allows only for a consultation procedure before Council makes its decision. This significantly reduces the scope of options open to the European Parliament to discuss and make suggestions to the alteration of policy in this area. It could be argued therefore that the views of national Governments are strengthened by this position. With only Ministers for Agriculture deciding on the policy, the removal of external views allows the Ministers sitting on Council full control of the policy area.
It is viewed that Agriculture meetings are full of pre bargained deals and organised stitch ups. Almost all policy that passes through the Agriculture Council meeting has already been pre-decided on in private meetings and bargaining sessions between the big and small member states. France and Germany are both known in this sphere for their willingness to bargain with smaller nations for their support on controversial agriculture issues. The problem with agriculture however is that when major issues come along they are often high jacked by the European Council, Heads of State.An example of this would be the BSE crisis.
When the situation erupted the decision making aspect was removed from the Council of Ministers and taken on by the Heads of State at the European Council. This therefore effectively made the role of the Council of Ministers redundant and all power shifted to the Council of Europe. It could be argued that the power was not available for the CE to intervene and that the power of National Governments particularly that of the United Kingdom was significantly reduced during this period.Agriculture in particular seems to be the area where new precedents are constantly set in relation to the formation of policy and the necessary bargaining needed to implement policy.
At the point of policy formation and the wording of any texts the role of National Government is very limited. The Commission along with their advisors formulate and present policy to the bodies of the Union. When these policies reach the Council of Ministers National Governments have the greatest chance of influence in the overall formation and wording of these new policies. The influence available to National Governments however is dependant on the treaties.
Each treaty can allow for a different approach to the voting rules in Council; for example, in a majority of subjects there must be unanimity in Council for the policy to be passed but the treaties can dictate that only a majority is needed. It must be remembered however that so much legislation passes through the European Union on a regular basis. It could be argued that due to the volume of policy documents and legislation passing through Council that National Government doesn’t really get an acceptable amount of time to discuss and work though each piece of policy.Ultimately if policy cannot be discussed significantly and an unacceptable proposal is voted though it would be strongly argued that the power of national government to control and manage policy making was in reality farcical; Tony Blair agrees when he said “we have to halt the tidal wave of new EU legislation”2 that instead the Commission was allowed because of the sheer volume to push through as much documentation and policy and possible without Government being fully informed on what they are binding themselves and future Government too.