Wednesday, 27 October 2010


There's a war going on in Brussels. Governments are under attack from the European Commission and allies in the European Parliament. The aggressors want to force the governments to be more open and transparent, and to stop them hiding the details of how the EU laws to which they have agreed get turned into national laws. They are demanding that governments publish 'correlation tables' that will demonstrate, clause by clause, how this will be done.

The various requirements of a single EU law may end up as different parts of several national laws. It's hard to keep a check on whether they are being applied faithfully in all 27 Member States. Bland assurances from governments that all is well buy them time to stave off the slow and cumbersome enforcement procedures intended to ensure that the laws get put into practice. The failure to show how the clauses of national laws correlate with the requirements of the relevant EU legislation makes cheating a great deal more simple.

The war is being conducted through a series of skirmishes. The Commission keeps including a 'correlation table' requirement in draft new laws. The Council of Ministers keeps rejecting them. Sometimes the MEPs dealing with the legislation leap to the defence of the 'correlation table' requirement and win a battle; we did that recently with the Financial Supervision Directive. More often, alas, it either doesn't register with the ones who happen to be involved that it is an important issue or they bow to pressure from the Council in order to reach an early deal.

The two sides are limbering up for next skirmish. MEPs and the Council are close to completing negotiations on the final shape of the new Restriction of Hazardous Substances (in electronic equipment) Regulation. The 'correlation table' issue could prove the final sticking point. I'm saying as the Liberal Democrat negotiator that I won't sign up to a First Reading deal unless we get our way. If we are successful it will insert another wedge in the door that could make inclusion of the tables standard practice.

Our lead negotiator (rapporteur) is Plaid Cymru's Jill Evans. The Council is threatening not to do a deal if 'correlation tables' are included. I don't believe it, and I'm looking to her to call their bluff.

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