How an EU Law Is Born

It’s not that hard, really!

You don’t have to memorize all of this but you probably do anyway when you’ve read it through once.

Please note that this information is for the use of the Parliament of Shadows larp. All the information here is correct but the information only covers the simplest and most common way of producing a new law.

First, let us look at the three institutions. They are the backbone of all EU decision making.

  1. The European Commission is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding EU treaties and managing the day-to-day business of the EU. There are 28 commissioners, one from each EU country. About 33 000 people work in the Commission.
  2. The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution. The Parliament is composed of 751 members called MEPs (Members of the European Parliament). About 6000 people work at the Parliament. Parliament of Shadows will take place in the context of this institution.
  3. The Council of the European Union represents the executive governments of the EU’s member states. The Council meets in 10 different configurations of 28 national ministers (one per state). For example, when discussing agricultural policy the Council is formed by the 28 Ministers of Agriculture. When the law is about culture, the Council is formed by the 28 Ministers of Culture and so on.

 

To make a law you need a green light from all three institutions.

All three have to agree on the law for it to pass. If one says no, there will be no law. Usually all the laws are compromises between the three institutions.

Here’s how the procedure goes.

  1. The Commission proposes a new law. Nobody else can propose a new law. Other institutions can ask the Commission to propose a law but they can’t do it on their own.
  2. The Commission drafts the new law. It consults interested parties such as non-governmental organisations, local authorities and representatives of industry and civil society. This is where a lot of lobbying happens.
  3. The draft is ready, hooray! Now, let’s see what the others think of it…
  4. The law is sent to the Parliament and to the Council.

 

4.1 In the Parliament the law is sent to the right committee. If it’s about culture, it goes to the Cultural committee. The aw we look into in the Parliament of Shadows belongs to the committee of Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE for short).

4.2 The committee names one of the MEPs as the rapporteur. The rapporteur is the main negotiator from the Parliament’s side. A rapporteur analyses the Commission’s proposal.  She consults with specialists and experts and organises special sessions or hearings for the committee responsible. She makes recommendations to the committee on what position to take. This is where much of the lobbying in the larp happens. The characters will meet the rapporteur.

4.3 The committee proposes amendments to the Commission’s draft. The amendments are mostly drafted by the rapporteur. The committee votes on their version of the law. Then, the whole plenary, all 751 MEPs, vote. Voilá, the Parliament’s version of the law is ready!

 

  1. Simultaneously with the Parliament, the Council starts it’s own work. Like the Parliament, they have a look at the Commission’s proposal and amend it as they see fit. This is where the lobbying happens. They vote, and voilá, the Council’s version of the law is ready!
  2. Now we have three versions of the law. One is the original version from the Commission, then there are the Parliament’s version and the Council’s version. Now all three institutions should find a compromise. Begin the trilogues!
  3. The trilogues are a series of meeting where the three institutions (mainly the Parliament and the Council) try to find a common understanding of how the law should look like.

[Points 7-8 not important for the game, just FYI if somebody’s interested.]

  1. If the Council and the Parliament cannot agree upon amendments, a second reading takes place. In the second reading, the Parliament and Council can again propose amendments. Parliament has the power to block the proposed legislation if it cannot agree with the Council.
  2. If they cannot agree, a conciliation committee tries to find a solution. Both the Council and the Parliament can block the legislative proposal at this final reading.
  3. When the trilogues are ready, the Parliament and the Council have hopefully agreed on the amendments. The Parliament votes for one more time.
  4. A law is adopted. Woo-hoo!