You may wonder: What is the most important, the most pressing, and thus the most recurring problem in EU policy-making for EU member states? The financial and economic crises? The European agriculture? High-speed internet for disconnected regions? Not really.
In fact, the most recurring problem is “delegated acts“, a special legal instrument introduced by the Lisbon Treaty. A very important instrument:
“Almost all delegations are of the opinion that the proposed regulation contains too many cases of delegated acts.” (source, page 1)
The quote above is from a recent Council discussion about EU data protection. As you can see, those delegated acts are a major problem for member states, who fight with the European Commission about who gets what kind of legislative competencies and who doesn’t. And it’s happening in almost all policy areas as these recent examples show:
• Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform
“The … outstanding issues on marketing standards are the extension of the Commission power to extend specific marketing standards to all agricultural sectors and products by delegated acts” (source, p. 11)
• Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reform
“Recitals and definitions will be further examined at a later stage, as well as text in brackets and the correct choice of the implementation procedure (delegated act/implementing act).” (source, p. 1)
• Cross-border health threats
Articles on delegated acts erased by member states (source, p. 24, 32-33)
• Connecting Europe Facility* (infrastructure)
“Nevertheless, some Member States are still reluctant to empower the Commission to adopt delegated acts, even if its power is circumscribed.” (source, p. 5)
• Major accident hazards involving dangerous substances
“The key issues were […], as well as the use of delegated acts.” (source, p. 2)
As you can see, our ministers, high-level diplomats, Commission, Council and Parliament officials and politicians as well as hundreds of government lawyers are spending their (taxpayer-financed) time discussing those “delegated acts”, over and over again. So they must be really important for the future of Europe.
These delegated acts are indeed a question about how much power the European Commission should get, so it is not a totally irrelevant matter. However, the problem is that the only reason especially member states have to discuss this issue today is because they did not know what they were doing when adopting the Lisbon Treaty some years ago.
Because of their past incompetence, officials and politicians today waste lots of meetings talking about their (in)competencies, instead discussing policy substance. And they do so over and over again. To save Europe, I suppose.
Hence, the next time, when you hear Commission President Barroso say “In a changing world, we want the EU to become a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy” (source), please think of those delegated acts – because they are the problems that really matter in the EU!