Friday, 8 October 2010


EU laws have to be turned into national laws before they can be applied. How this is done is up to each government and parliament. In one country, for example, it could be that the requirements of a single EU law might be broken into parts with different bits then included in modifications to a range of existing laws. Sometimes bits go “missing” or get “overlooked.”

The easy way to make sure that this doesn’t happen is for every government to publish a correlation table that shows how the different clauses of an EU law have been transposed into national laws. The European Commission wants this to be done in every instance, the European Parliament agrees, but the Council of Ministers has fought off attempts to get the principle established as standard practice.

So a series of individual battles are taking place. Sometimes the MEPs negotiating the final shape of legislation manage to get inserted a clause that insists that Member States shall publish a correlation table that will show where every article of an EU law can be found in national legislation, and sometimes they don’t. It depends on how keen each side is to get the law made quickly, and how much the individuals concerned care about the issue.

I’m involved in one such skirmish at present, being part of the negotiating team working on legislation that restricts the use of hazardous substances in electronic equipment.

The Belgian Presidency is keen to get a feather in its cap by getting this sorted during its term of office. Parliament’s rapporteur (team leader), Plaid Cymru’s Jill Evans, is holding firm on a few key issues but has compromised or backed down on many others. A deal between the Parliament and the Council must be close.

I’m holding out for the correlation table. Using my notes, Jill insisted that this was a matter of “good governance” at our most recent meeting with the Belgian deputy ambassador (who negotiates on behalf of the Council). The European Commission representative supported her. The Council’s argument was so weak (“it’s not a requirement of the inter-institutional agreement between Parliament and Council”) that one of their officials later came over to apologise to me for it.

We have one more meeting scheduled. If agreement is reached on all other matters will the Council really refuse to support an agreement because MEPs want people to be able to find out how each country is putting the law into practice?

Who will blink first?

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