(This article is written by Astitva Kumar, a research associate at ICMCR.)
The European Parliament and the Council of Ministers use a conference committee, known as the conciliation committee, in the co-decision procedure, which is now the EU’s standard legislative procedure, to resolve any disputes that may occur during the approval of legislation. In bicameral legislatures, conference committees are typically used to resolve unresolved issues after a bill has been pushed back and forth between the two houses. The power balance between the houses is ultimately determined by how these committees work. ‘The makeup of the conference committee, its decision-making procedure, and the set of bicameral limits are significantly essential to the results of bicameral negotiation,’ according to Tsebelis and Money.
The first version of the co-decision procedure (Art. 189b) introduced the EU conciliation process and its committee with the Maastricht Treaty’s entrance into effect on November 1, 1993. The Treaty of Amsterdam, which entered into force on May 1, 1999, created a modified version to speed up legislative decision-making through the co-decision method. It was called the regular legislative procedure once the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force in December 2009. The number of policy topics governed by this approach has grown from fifteen in 1993 to eighty now.
The EU Decision-making process
The Commission, the Parliament, and the Council are the three primary decision-making organizations of the European Union (EU). Only the Commission has the authority to provide a formal legislative proposal. Although the Parliament and the Council might try to start the process themselves, such as through own-initiative reports or Presidency conclusions, the Commission retains the official right of initiative. The Council and Parliament vote on the Commission’s suggestions, and their powers fluctuate depending on the decision-making mechanism. The Treaty specifies the method to be followed in each policy area. This decides whether decisions are made by unanimity or qualified majority in the Council of Ministers, the scope of the European Parliament’s influence and if the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions have a right to be consulted. The conventional legislative procedure (formerly known as co-decision) and special legislative procedures are two types of EU legislative proceedings that begin with a proposal from the European Commission (which covers the consultation, cooperation, and assent procedures as provided for in previous treaties). In addition, the European Commission chairs a network of committees of Member State representatives that agree on particular Commission implementing decisions. Various ‘comitology’ procedures apply to proposals pertaining to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), water, nature and biodiversity, and genetically modified organisms, among other things. The comitology technique is increasingly being utilized to address concerns that were left unresolved during the co-decision procedure, implying that greater volumes and more essential components of the legislation are now being handled this way. The comitology procedure is intended to allow Member States (and, increasingly, the European Parliament) to participate in the Commission’s implementing powers exercise. The Council created this notion on an ad hoc basis at first, with the Parliament playing no part. Later, the procedure was codified by the passage of Council Decisions, with increasing concessions made for European Parliament participation. There are several sorts of comitology procedures, each having a distinct role for the Commission, Member States, and, eventually, the Council and the European Parliament, as well as a varied power balance. Comitology processes were considerably altered in 2006 to strengthen parliamentary scrutiny as a result of a long-standing institutional conflict between the Parliament, the Council, and the Commission, with Decision
1999/468/EC being revised by Decision 2006/512/EC. The comitology method was also significantly altered by the Lisbon Treaty.
European Union Conciliation Committee
The bicameral institutions of the Council and the European Parliament make up the EU conciliation committee. Both parties have equal-sized delegations and must accept the final agreement. The final joint text, which is subject to a closed rule, is the result. Because none of the two institutions can make modifications or try to renegotiate the final unified agreement, the conciliation committee has the authority to establish the agenda. The Council and the European Parliament can only approve or reject the conciliation committee’s suggestion, which aims to resolve any bicameral disagreement between the two parties. Conciliation aims to create a joint text endorsed by a qualified majority of Council delegates and an absolute majority of legislative delegates within six weeks. The Commission participates in the conciliation talks but does not have a vote. If a consensus is reached on a joint text, the document is voted on in the Council and Parliament within six weeks, using the closed rule and a qualified and simple majority, respectively. Unless there have been any government changes in the meantime, the Council vote is a formality because the makeup of this institution and its conciliation delegation are identical. The combination of closed rule and a simple majority in the Parliament, on the other hand, gives the conciliation delegation enormous agenda-setting influence over the plenary. Before the Treaty of Amsterdam, the Council could not complete the procedure and approve a final act after the first legislative reading, and the Parliament could not do so after the second. It was up to the Council to make the final decision. If the conciliation committee’s discussions fail, the Council might make a final take-it-or-leave-it offer to Parliament, which would have to gather an absolute majority to put an end to the planned legislation for good. This final procedural step bolstered the Council’s bargaining position, at least in theory. However, the implementation of a rule of procedure that states that in such a case, the parliamentary leadership will table a resolution to reject has undoubtedly curtailed the Council’s prospective benefits.
- Lack of parliamentary cohesiveness: It has been discovered that the European Parliament wins the majority of disagreements, whilst the Council wins more multi-dimensional issues. If the European Parliament is farther from the status quo than the Council, the latter is rejected. The European Parliament and Council place a premium on the consistency of preferences. The member states, on the other hand, are the only ones who stand to benefit from the lack of parliamentary cohesion.
- Importance of the opinion of the Commission in determining the relative success of the Parliament and Council: When the Commission has certain informational advantages or can gather support from non–legislative players, it may be able to exert influence. However, aside from informal influence, the Commission’s views may be important merely because of its official involvement in implementation. When legislative provisions provide the Commission the authority to make policy choices, it is directly responsible for execution. This transnational bureaucracy is entrusted with the competence to launch procedures against alleged infringements by state administrations, even when no regulations envisage its involvement.
- Effectiveness and efficiency: Connections between national, supranational, and intergovernmental bodies, according to Neyer, bring into question new parts of the EU decision-making process’ efficiency and efficacy. Neyer attempted to explain the European decision-making process’s “unexpected efficiency and efficacy.” It’s fascinating that in 2004, the efficiency and efficacy of the European decision-making process were destined to be “unexpected,” as though inefficiency and ineffectiveness were the prevailing views. The author includes terminology like ‘the [EU] capacity to lead efficient and effective governance’ and ‘the degree of efficiency and effectiveness in European governance’ within the decisional paradigm, in addition to efficiency and effectiveness in the decision-making process. Not only the efficiency and efficacy of EU procedures but also their legitimacy in the context of democratic and institutional changes within the EU and the promotion of “EU multi-tier governance” were challenged during the Euro crisis. Sectoral issues, such as “environmental policies and co-decision,” and thematic concerns, such as “efficient and cost-effective interpretation in the European Parliament,” are added to the overarching concerns about efficiency and effectiveness.
- Uncertainty: There is no predefined receiver or proposer in conciliation, and ambiguity might act in either direction. However, because the Council is completely represented, the parliamentary delegation’s doubt about the type of Council it is dealing with is likely to be lower than the Council delegation’s uncertainty about the sort of full assembly it is dealing with.
- More power to the Parliament: The Ozone Directive, which was presented by the Commission in July 1999, is a good illustration of the current EU conciliation procedure. The Commission suggested the implementation of an EU norm for a maximum ozone value (120 g/m3) based on WHO standards to limit detrimental ozone impacts on human health and the environment. The European Parliament approved the core goals of the Commission regulation in its first reading on March 15, 2000, and proposed seventeen modifications. A compliance date of 2010 was added, notwithstanding the Commission’s recommendation for a more mild temporary solution. Other amendments aimed to increase obligations for member states to monitor ozone concentrations. In 2020, the Commission was supposed to conduct an evaluation of member state compliance with the directive’s provisions and provide its findings to the public. On March 8, 2001, the Council announced its consensus stance, almost a year later. Ten legislative modifications were incorporated in the common position, but the Council rejected a benchmark and the desired public report on the findings. In addition, the Council requested that several elements of the original Commission wording be changed. The European Parliament reaffirmed most of the revisions that the Council had ignored in June 2001. The European Parliament re-emphasized the Commission’s original recommendation of a twenty-day grace period for exceeding ozone criteria. The European Parliament re-emphasized the timescale for achieving the long-term aim of decreasing ozone concentrations. The Council replied on October 8, 2001, writing that member states would be unable to adopt all legislative modifications. On November 22, 2001, the president of the Council, in agreement with the president of the EP, called a meeting of the conciliation committee. The Council’s view on the number of days in which ground-level ozone might exceed the target value was endorsed in the joint text of the conciliation committee. The European Parliament, on the other hand, was successful in preserving the target figure at 120 g/m3, with the wording requiring member states to meet this goal by 2010. The European Parliament was successful in securing a 2020 deadline for a Commission compliance review as well as a public report on the results. The final voting on the combined text took place on January 18, 2002, and the provisions took effect on March 9, 2002. Despite the fact that both institutional players had to make compromises on several topics, the European Parliament appears to have been the more effective bargaining partner in the Ozone Directive negotiations.
Many people believe that because conciliation panels are smaller, it is easier to have a simplified cooperation procedure for bargaining and trading votes. The effectiveness of co-decision was demonstrated by the sectorial breakdown of pieces of legislation that echoed the main needs of European citizens, with the more active parliamentary committees addressing precisely issues of greatest concern to European citizens, such as environmental, economic, and social issues. Though the decision-making process is cooperative, the composition of the committee, the decision-making rules, and the bicameral restrictions are critical to the results of bicameral bargaining. Using the Ozone layer as an example, we can conclude that Parliament has more power than the Council in the European conciliation Committee.
 Tsebelis and Money (1997)
 Treaty of Amsterdam amending the Treaty on European Union. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2022, from https://www.europarl.europa.eu/topics/treaty/pdf/amst-en.pdf
 Decision 2006/512/EC
 Articles 290-291 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union
 Garrett 1995; Garrett and Tsebelis 1996
 Hix 2002; Kasack 2004
 König et al. 2007; Moravcsik 1999; Pollack 2003; Rasmussen 2003
 Börzel 2001; Pollack 2003
 Neyer 2010
European Parliament 2013
 Torres 2003
 Benedetto (2005)