Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council, 24/10/2017

 

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/tte/2017/10/24/

 

In line with the European Council conclusions of 19 October, the Council held a policy debate on speeding up work on the digital single market to ensure its completion by the end of 2018. “EU leaders last week said that they were ready to do what it takes for Europe to go digital,” said Urve Palo, Estonia’s Minister for Entrepreneurship and Information Technology and chair of today’s meeting. “The telecommunications ministers’ debate today echoes this. In the area of telecommunications, the European Council has set specific deadlines for three key dossiers that are being negotiated: cross-border parcel delivery services, the free flow of data and the Electronic Communications Code. Our discussion today is a sign of ministers’ strong commitment to delivering on these objectives.”

Ministers also held a policy debate on the EU’s response to the crucial challenge of cybersecurity. Work in this area is focused on the cybersecurity package recently presented by the Commission, which includes proposals to create a fully fledged cybersecurity agency and an EU-wide certification framework to ensure that ICT products and services are cyber secure. “A thriving digital society and economy cannot exist without reliable cybersecurity,” said Minister Palo. “The Council has already started to work on these proposals. We will also establish an action plan to ensure that the work advances  in a timely and holistic manner, as called for by European leaders.”

Under any other business, the presidency provided information on the outcome of the informal lunch discussion on practical steps for achieving 5G connectivity. During lunch, ministers discussed the best way to achieve the ambition set by the European Council to make the necessary spectrum available by 2020. “We all agreed that it was imperative that we create the right conditions for the swift and extensive roll-out of 5G networks in Europe,” said Minister Palo. “We are pursuing several concrete steps. Tomorrow, the presidency will hold the first exploratory trilogue with the European Parliament on the Electronic Communications Code, and next week, telecoms directors will meet in Tallinn to look at the details of a common European timeline for 5G spectrum.”

The presidency also briefed ministers on the Tallinn ministerial declaration on e-Government adopted on 6 October and on the Eastern Partnership digital ministerial meeting held on 5 October.

In this example what is remarkable, is the way in which the ministers of each country depending on the specific topics in issue meet, the digital single market and the cybersecurity is related to telecommunications so the ministers specialized in this area are who are going to set the meetings.

Results of the Telecom Council of Ministers, Brussels 27/03/2003

2017-12-08

This example, despite is not an actual announcement, is useful to see the role of this institution in practice, as we have said before the commission issue a proposal for a European Parliament and the council, in this case the commissioner erkki Likanen it was a proposal for the establishement of a `Network and information security agency, another remarkable point, of which we can see its application in practice is the voting procedure of The council in this case,  reached unanimous political agreements, it means the agreement of all member States upon a single decision.

Agriculture Council, 11-12/12/2017

We’ve found this new in order to show you how the Council and the Ministers work on some specific areas such as agriculture

Main results – 11 December 2017

Agriculture

The future of food and farming: Common Agricultural Policy post 2020

“Over the years the Common Agricultural Policy has delivered food security to European citizens and provided a fairer income for our farmers. It has helped create jobs, preserve rural regions and communities, and encouraged a competitive agri-food sector. We now have the responsibility to make it even better after 2020: simpler, more effective, sustainable, modern and resilient.”

Tarmo Tamm, minister of Rural Affairs of the Republic of Estonia

The Commission send to the Council its communication on this area and on this issue and set out the guidelines of its vision for the a future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). What Ministers did here was to express their conform or disconform in relation to the comunication of the Commission and highlighted what they considerer that was an important matter related to the stategic issues for the future of the CAP. Specially they expressed their ideas in relation to the improvement of subsides and the reformation of the greening rules. And many Ministers underlined the necessity of an adequate future budget to fulfil the expectations of this agri-food sector.

Other topics discused 

Ministers were informed about:

  • the outcome of the conference on “Modern biotechnologies in agriculture
  • the efforts undertaken in relation to African pigs fever
  • the issue of unfair trading practices in the food supply chain

publicconsultation

We can see with this picture an example of a public consultation made in relation with this Agriculture Agreement. That public consultation was made to firstly get the public opinion of the principal subjects of the matter concerned, in this case the principal agriculture workers and farmers. This public consultation showed the necessity and the demand of the farmers in a change on the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy). Also it highlighted the need for the 3 basics for sustainability : economic, environmental and social developlment and modernisation in order to boost the growth of this area.

COUNCIL COMPOSITION AND CONFIGURATIONS

The Council of the EU is composed by 10 different configurations of 28 national ministers, one per each EU state. The Council membership will vary according to the topic in question. So, if the topic in question is  related to transports, telecommunications or energy the Council will be made up by the 28 national ministers that are specialized in this policy area, also the European Commissioners could contribute in the decisions but they can not vote.

The General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union, also known as Council Secretariat, assists the Council of the European Union, the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the European Council and the President of the European Council. This Secretariat is headed by the Secretary-General of the Council of the EU and is divided into 7 directorates-general, each adminestered by a director-general.

We also have the authority figure of the Prime Minister who is almost free to choose his team. While the constitution does not classify the Council of Ministers into different ranks it has been done informally at the centre: there are Cabinet Ministers, Ministers of State & Deputy Minister.

The composition of the Council varies according to the different subjects discussed in each meeting, and they meet in 10 different configurations depending on the specific matter in issue:

— General Affairs,

—Foreign Affairs,

— Economic and Financial Affairs,

— Justice and Home Affairs,

— Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs,

— Competitiveness (Internal Market, Industry and Research),

— Transport, Telecommunications and Energy,

— Agriculture and Fisheries,

— Environment,

— Education, Youth and Culture.

The various configurations of the Council may meet at the same time in order to deal with questions concerning several areas of activity; this takes place in what is commonly known as the ‘Jumbo Council’. Despite the number of different configurations, the unity of the Council, as an institution, remains intact.

 

 

COUNCIL CONCLUSIONS AND RESOLUTIONS

When the Council of the EU wants to express a political position on a topic that concerns EU’s areas of activity usually negotiates and adopts documents, resolutions and conclusions that don’t necessary intend to have legal effects. These documents only set up political positions or commitments but they are not expressed in Treaties or Agreements. So they are not legally binding.

We can see this in other familiar institutions such as the Commission. The Commission publishes conclusions with the aim of promoting the discussion of the Commission proposals, that may later become legislative acts. Also another important institution known as the Parliament elaborates resolutions and recommendations on matters within the EU’s competencies.

  • Conclusions and resolutions

When are this conclusions often adopted? They are adopted after a debate taken place during a Council meeting.

One really important matter here is to distinguish between Council conclusions and Presidency conclusions. The Council conclusions are taken up by the Council while the Presidency conclusions only express the position of the presidency but without involving the Council.

Council resolutions usually set out the expected work in an specific policy area. They have no legal effect, as we said before, but they can help the Council to make some guidelines for a further action. If the resolution covers an area that is not entirely an area of EU competency, it takes the form of a ‘resolution of the Council and the representatives of the governments of the member states‘.

Conclusions and resolutions are used for different purposes, such as:

  • To support, cordinate and supplement in health or culture subject areas, inviting a member State or another EU institutions to take action in this specific issues.
  • For asking the Commission to prepare a proposal on a specific topic.
  • In order to coordinate the actions of the member States. Here conclusions will help to accelerate policy proceses and to set up more objectives.
  • To express a political position and to state, within the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) the position of the EU regarding a particular event or country
  • To set possible solutions in cases where problems in special reports fron the Court of Auditors have appeared.

Coreper

The COREPER (Permanent Representatives Committe) is the one that prepares the work of all the Council Configurations. It is divided in 2 parts:

Before being adopted, the conclusions and resolutions have to pass by 3 levels at the Council:

  • working party

  • Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper)

  • Council configuration

  1. First the presidency usually presents a discussion paper in which it will be represented the issue in discussion but at working party level, this is done before a designed conclusion text is written up.
  2. On the basis of the discussion, the Council presidency, usually assisted by the General Secretariat of the Council (GSC), then writes up a designed text of conclusions. The political responsibility for the planning lies with the presidency.
  3. Before the conclusion goes to Coreper for further consideration it must have been discused 7-14 days before in meetings with the party.
  4.  The Council configuration will then adopt the text by consensus.
  5.  If ministers don’t agree with the text, amendments may still be made.
  6. In exceptional cases, the Council may not be able to agree to the conclusions. In such cases, the text is sometimes adopted as ‘presidency conclusions‘ which do not require the agreement of member states.

THE PRESIDENCY OF THE COUNCIL

The presidency of the Council is a rotating presidency which rotates among the EU member States every 6 months. In this 6 months period, it will head meetings at every level, with the aim of guaranteeing the continuity of the EU’s work within the Council.

But what responsibilities are inccured in the figure of the Council’s presidency? The presidency will be responsible for improving the Council’s work on EU legislation, organize legislative processes and cooperate among member States. Of course, for making this posible, the presidency must act honestly and with neutrality.

How do the Member States work in the presidency? They work together closely in groups of 3, called ‘trios’, a system introduced by the Lisbon Treaty (2009). This ‘trio’ system is very useful for setting long-term goals and preparing a common agenda with the topics and major issues taken by the Council. On the basis of this programme, each of the 3 countries member of the trio will prepare its own more detailed 6-month programme.

Currently the trio is formed up by the presidencies of Austria,Bulgaria and Estonia.

The presidency has 2 main tasks:

  • Planning and chairing meetings in the Council

The presidency leads the meetings of the different Council configurations (exception of the Foreign Affairs Council), and the Council’s preparatory bodies, this is the permanent committes like the Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER) and working parties and committees that deal with very specific subjects. Also, the presidency is keen on maintaining the good conduction of the discussions and the right application of the rules of procedure and working methods. And it organises the various formal and informal meetings in Brussels and in the country of the rotating presidency.

  • Representation (of the Council in relations with other EU institutions)

The presidency main role is to represent the Council in relations with the other EU institutions, particularly in relation with the Commission and the European Parliament. Its commitment is to try and reach agreements on legislative files through trilogues (informal negotiation meetings and Conciliation Committe meetings).

Finally, the presidency works in close coordination with:

  1. The President of the European Council

  2. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

  • List of the Council presidencies up to 2020:

 Bulgaria: January-June 2018
Austria: July-December 2018
Romania: January-June 2019
Finland: July-December 2019
Croatia: January-June 2020
Germany: July-December 2020

 

THE ROLE OF THE COUNCIL IN INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS

One of the most important tasks of the Council is taking part on International Agreements, which are deeply important in the achievement of EU policy objectives.

The Council of EU plays an important role here, negotiating and concluding agreements between EU and  Non-EU countries or International Organizations.

The Council takes part at all stages: from providing the mandate for negotiations to the Commission, to signing the agreement on support of the EU and taking the final decision and implement it into EU law.

For agreements covering areas of shared competency with EU member States, this member States will also have to give their consent in the decisions. This includes most of the agreements related with foreign policy and broad trade agreements.

The Council can also suspend the application of the International Agreement or terminate an agreement if one of the States that have taken part in the agreement is breaching it in terms of human rights, democratic principles or rules of law. This will be made upon a consultation procedure, that we’ve explained recently. We can find one good example of this when in 2010 the Council suspended the Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement with Zimbabwe because of the constant breaching of the Agreement, this suspended the direct financial support to the Government but fully maintained financial and humanitarian aid to the population.

We can find the procedures for negotiating and adopting international agreements in the 207 and 218 Articles of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU. The Council mostly takes its decisions on International Agreements by qualified majority but also using the unanimity procedure in those areas where unanimity is more likely to be used, for example in taxation issues, because these areas could be more controversial. And for agreements made up with those areas of shared competency, decisions are taken with the Council and the agreement of all those member States.

THE NEGOTIATION PROCEDURE

To really understand this ‘consent’ procedure that we’ve just briefly commented we first need to know how this procedure is started. It starts with the submission of an International Agreement by the European Commission to the Parliament and to the Council, the 2 main Institutions involved in this procedure. If this 2 institutions aprove the International Agreement, then it will be implemented.

  1. The EU Commission, which negotiates with the Council, sends recomendations to the Council to negotiate the International Agreement in question (in the case of Foreign and Security Policy Agreements this are taken by the High Representative of the Union).
  2. The Council draws the principal guidelines to be followed for the Agreement.
  3. For some types of Agreements there will be a special committe which consults with the Commission throughout negotiations.
  4. The preliminary signature : the negotiatiors prepare a provisional agreement. And is the role of the Council to decide whether or not to authorise the negotiator to sign this provisional agreement on behalf of the EU.
  5. The Council and the Commission are both responsible of the compatibility of the International Agreements with the Internal Policies and EU rules.
  6. The final decision : the final decision on the managing of the agreement can only be taken with the Europe Parliament consent and the ratification of all EU member States.

This image might help you to understand a bit more how this procedure works:

consent procedure council eu

How does it work

Discussions and votes take place in public. Depending on the matter The council follows different voting systems, some decisions follow a qualified majority, this means the agreement of 55% member states representing at least 65% of the EU population (16 countries), in order to block a decision,  it is needed at least 4 countries.

Other matters follow different voting system, for example foreign policy and taxation policy requires unanimity, it means the agreement of all member States upon a single decision, usually because these matters are more controversial.

Another voting system used for procedural and administrative bodies is simple majority, is used for non-legislative votes(votes not directly related to the process of making law), 17 votes out of 28 member states are needed to reach an agreement by simple majority.

 

 

The council as an EU decision maker

Firstly, is appropiated to talk about the ordinary legislative procedure of which we have just talked about it in one fundamental task of The Council (negotiates and adopts EU law), this procedure is now the most widely method of EU decision-making.

Now we are going to explain some more details about this legislative procedure, under the ordinary legislative procedure, decisions are adopted by qualified majority, the ordinary legislative procedure give the same weight to the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union on a wide range of areas as energy, inmigration, transportation.

We have already said that the Parliament and the Council review and can make amendments on its proposals but what goes before the proposal of the commission? Before issue the proposal, the commission thinks about the potential economic, social and environmental consequences of these actions, and they reflect and express this by preparing “impact assessments´´. https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/law-making-process/planning-and-proposing-law/impact-assessments_en

There is also a consultation process with non-governmental organisations, local authorities and representatives of industry…  At the same time citizens could participate in this consultation process by the website “public consultation´´ https://ec.europa.eu/info/consultations_en

As we have just said  if they cannot agree upon amendments, upon the adoption of the legislation… They are assisted by a conciliation committee, that can be convened to resolve any disagreements between the Council and the European Parliament following the second Reading of a legislative proposal of the European Commission. This Commission is formed by members of The Council and The Parliament, specifically an equal number of them, the objective of this committee is to find the agreement between both institutions with a join text on the basis of the position of both institutions at a second Reading.

The committee has to adopt a proposal within 6 weeks, to agree upon the proposal it needs an absolute majority of the Parliament´s votes and qualified majority of the Council´s votes.

But what happens if the Conciliation committee does not approve the joint text? In this case, the legislative act is considered not to be adopted.

Secondly another legislative procedure that is less usual is the SPECIAL LEGISLATIVE PROCEDURE , it is the exception to the ordinary legislative procedure, there is not a set of norms concerning the basis or the steps to follow in this kind of procedure, so rules are defined on a case by case basis by the treaty articles that lay down the conditions for their implementation.

The Council in this case is the principal actor, the Parliament is simply associated with the procedure, its role is thus limited to consultation or consent, following the consultation procedure the Council adopts a legislative proposal after the Parliament has submitted its opinion on it, the Parliament may approve reject or propose amendments to a legislative proposal, the Council must have received the opinion of the Parliament before take a decision, but The Council is not legally obliged to take into account the Parliament´s opinion.

Following the consent procedure, The Council can adopt legislative proposals after obtaining the consent of the Parliament. The Parliament therefore has the power to accept or reject a legislative proposal by an absolute majority vote, but cannot amend it. The council has no power to overrule The Parliament´s opinion.

When do we use the consent procedure?

When new legislation on combating discrimination is being adopted.

The Parliament´s consent is also required as a non-legislative procedure,when the Council adopts certain international agreements negotiated by the EU, in cases of serious breach of fundamental rights, for the accession of new EU members and arrangements for withdrawal from the EU.

 

What does it do (competences)

The council of ministers is the main decision body of the EU with the parliament , one of its tasks is to negotiate and adopt EU laws, most of times together with the parliament, through ordinary legislative procedures, this was known as codecision but was renamed as the ordinary legislative procedure with the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, so the main stages of this procedure are that the council together with the parliament (main decision maker of the EU) review and can make amendments on proposals issued by the comission, so they approve EU legislation.

Then the Council and the Parliament have to adopt a legislative proposal (agree on amendments) , it could be adopted at the first Reading or at the second Reading, in the case that they don’t reach an agreement after the second reading they are assisted by a Conciliation Committee, finally if the text agreed by the Conciliation Committee is accepted by both parties, the legislative act is adopted.

The Council of the european union also has specific responsabilities in key areas, for example, is responsible for coordinate member states policies, such as economic and fiscal policies, employment policy, or in education, culture, youth and sport.

At the same time the European Council set the basis of the guidelines in which the Council defines and implements EU foreign and security policy, together with the High Representative of the union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy the council ensures the unity, consistency and effectiveness of the EU´S external action.

The Council has an important role in international agreements, the Commission mandated by The Council negotiates on behalf of the EU in agreements in which the parties could be EU-member States, Non-member states and International Organizations. Here the Council influences in the final decision and in the conclusion of the agreement (once the Parliament has given its consent and it is ratified by all EU member States) , so The Council has a fundamental role in the conclusion of international agreements, is an essential actor in the international plane.

Finally it adopts the EU Budget, sharing responsibilities with the European Parliament, The Council has the final say on the agriculture figures, and the Parliament in all other expenditures (The Budget period overs a calendar year, it is usually adopted in December and starts running on the 1st of January of the following year) .