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Thursday, 14 April 2016

Revenge Of The Trilogues

They sound like something from a sci-fi horror movie, but the Trilogues are actually already among us. In an excellent article, Vicky Marissen, MD of PACT European Affairs, has explained how these "three-way discussions" have moved further and further away from their rightful place in the latter part of the ordinary European legislative procedure and are now being used informally as a legislative shortcut - something the new EU agreement seems likely to make even worse.

Relying more on trilogues means that about 90% of EU legislation is adopted on first reading without any genuine legislative debate; and secondary legislation is being used to kick more sensitive cans down the Rue du Luxembourg. Indeed, trilogues are now happening within just a few days of each other without publishing the changes agreed, so it's impracticable for those outside the trilogues to follow or attempt to engage in what is really a closed debate. This was a frequent problem in the course of agreeing the new Payment Services Directive, for example.

The recent EU institutional agreement on better regulation won't fix this, as the Commission is able to use its participation in trilogues to (wrongfully) assume the role of legislator - note that its proposal for better regulation didn't even mention the word "trilogue" and merely stated that "The three institutions will ensure an appropriate degree of transparency of the legislative process, including of trilateral negotiations between the three institutions." If anything, that agreement promises more informal trilogues:
"Where appropriate, the three institutions may agree to coordinate efforts to accelerate the legislative adoption process, both during each institution's internal preparatory steps and during the inter-institutional negotiations."
Not only does this increasingly closed shop raise the risk of poor, ill-considered drafting that creates costs for the broader community, but the mere perception of an opaque process also widens the gap between EU legislators and EU citizens - a gap that is already wider than the one between national legislators and their citizens.

The EU's legislative process needs to be more transparent than national processes, not less, if the EU is to be respected or seen as a Good Thing.

I'm amazed the Brexit fans aren't sounding the alarm over this...

Oh, wait, no I'm not. The Brexit 'debate' is pure politics, not connected to anything real.