Commission revises EU decision-making rules in move to avoid blame

Press release - February 14, 2017
Brussels – Today the European Commission presented a proposal to revise the decision-making rules under the so-called “comitology” procedure that is used, among other things, for approvals of products such as pesticides and GMOs. The proposal changes the voting rules for the Appeal Committee, which is invoked when there is no qualified majority of member states [1] for or against in the first committee mandated to vote. Appeal Committee abstentions would not be counted. This could open the door to regulatory approvals even when only a small number of countries support them, said Greenpeace.

Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said: “The proposed voting rules will just make it easier for the Commission to take bad decisions without taking the blame. They won’t do anything to make the EU more democratic. If these proposals become law, the Commission will be able to say a majority of EU countries is backing the use of controversial products when in reality only a small number of countries are.”

“Democratic decision-making requires that the EU only allow the use of potentially harmful products, such as pesticides and GMOs, if our governments are confident that they will not cause harm. No such products should be allowed without the support of a real majority of countries.”

The Commission’s proposal was triggered by last year’s glyphosate debate. In June 2016, the Commission held an Appeal Committee vote on an 18-month extension of the glyphosate licence. It failed to achieve a qualified majority in favour and subsequently took the decision to extend the licence unilaterally. Under the rules proposed today, not counting abstentions, it would have had a majority in favour.

Friends of the Earth Europe, Greenpeace, HEAL, IFOAM EU and Pesticide Action Network Europe are calling for a qualified majority of all EU countries to be mandatory when deciding to allow the use of potentially hazardous products and food preparation processes. This was one of the options considered by the Commission at an earlier stage.

Background

In his Political Guidelines of 2014, PresidentJuncker promised to change the decision-making rules for GMO authorisations and that he “would not want the Commission to be able to take a decision when a majority of Member States has not encouraged it to do so”. However, Juncker backed down on changing the EU authorisation process and, in April 2015, proposed that EU countries should be able to ban GMO imports nationally. Commissioner Andriukaitis said at the time that “changing the Comitology Regulation only for GMOs could not be justified and would have been discriminatory”. The proposal is stuck in Council and likely to never become law.

The 2016 glyphosate battle made it clear that this decision-making problem is not just about GMOs. Juncker complained that national governments abstained or voted against the Commission proposal.

The proposed change to the comitology regulation must be agreed by Parliament and Council.

Notes:
[1] A qualified majority requires the favourable vote of at least 16 countries, representing at least 65% of the EU population.    

Contacts:

Franziska Achterberg – Greenpeace EU food policy director, +32 (0)498 362403,
Greenpeace EU press desk
: +32 (0)2 274 1911,

This press release is also available on: www.greenpeace.eu

For breaking news and comment on EU affairs: www.twitter.com/GreenpeaceEU

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