European Committee Says Scotland Must "Get In Early" On Influencing EU Legislation

02/05/2008

Scotland “getting in early” in the EU legislative process is key to the effective implementation of new laws from Brussels concludes a report published today by the Scottish Parliament’s European and External Relations Committee.

The report also highlights the need for greater transparency throughout the EU legislative process, including the ‘transposition stage’, with specific emphasis on the need for more effective parliamentary scrutiny.

The findings arise from a sixth month parliamentary inquiry into the ‘transposition of EU directives’, following concerns from business representatives and public bodies as to whether legislation from Europe adequately reflects Scottish interests and the needs of Scottish stakeholders.

Malcolm Chisholm, convener of the European and External Relations Committee said: “A key theme from our report is that any attempt to influence the European legislative process requires engagement at a very early stage. The importance of ‘getting in early’ and influencing EU policy development was continually reaffirmed by witnesses to our inquiry.

“The clear message that emerged from business representatives and from our political counterparts across Europe was that it’s impossible to consider the transposition process in isolation, and that success at an early stage of the EU policy development process is more likely to produce effective implementation into domestic law.”

The committee’s inquiry originally set out to focus specifically on the transposition stage of EU directives - the two to three year period between a directive being agreed in Brussels and the requirement for it to be introduced into domestic law by each member state or devolved administration.

The main recommendations from the inquiry include:

  • The Committee recommends that the Scottish Government’s proposed transposition guidance should explicitly recognise the importance of early engagement and the direct connection with effective implementation.
  • The Committee recommends that the Scottish Government proposed guidance should set out explicitly how it intends to engage with the Scottish Parliament throughout the EU legislative process, including at transposition stage.
  • The Committee recommends that the Scottish Government considers the use of secondments to the EU institutions as one method for promoting Scottish interests at EU policy development stage.

Background information

Evidence from witnesses suggested that while there are examples of good practice at transposition stage the picture across directives is not consistent.

Witnesses pointed to the Water Framework Directive and the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive as, generally, positive examples of effective transposition. By contrast, two examples identified by witnesses where transposition had been less successful were the Habitats Directive and the Nitrates Directive.

It was also notable that the regional governments and parliaments in Germany, Belgium and Spain with whom MSPs met were less exercised by the transposition of EU directives and focussed their resources on influencing EU policy development.

Likewise, the view from German Länder was that the possibility to influence EU proposals is significantly reduced once a directive has been agreed even in cases where there is scope for local measures.

The Bavarian Länder emphasised that getting in early might involve trying to influence a proposal before it has even been published by the Commission. The Committee learnt that the Brussels offices of the regional governments in Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria work directly with the EU institutions and relevant stakeholders to try to influence the content of draft EU proposals and legislation.

The success of these informal methods was exemplified by Commission proposals for legislation curbing car emissions. Having secured an early copy of this proposal, the Bavarian Government worked with key stakeholders such as BMW and Volkswagen to achieve a common Bavarian position which was then fed in directly to the Commission and the Federal Government.

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