Revamping the European Parliament: how will it influence your lobbying activities?


In her State of the European Union, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proudly stated that during her mandate, 170 bills were proposed. Ranging from sector-specific to broad horizontal legislation, small reforms to first-of-its-kind proposals, the European Institutes have been very active. The European Parliament, representing the interests of all EU citizens in these processes, works across various committees to scrutinize and amend these proposals. This involves a complex network of over 20 committees, subcommittees, and special committees – spanning from a committee for Internal Market and Consumer Protection to an ad hoc committee for artificial intelligence.

Since 1989, little has changed in the composition and functioning of these committees, despite significant transformations occurring both within the EU and globally. To keep up with these transformations, the Parliament has proposed a restructuring of their committees. In this blog, colleague Valérie discusses these changes and what they mean for lobbying activities.

A New Commission Structure for Greater Efficiency
The Secretary-General of the European Parliament, Alessandro Chiocchetti, recently emphasized the need for structural reforms to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the Parliament. He stated that “the world has changed, everything has changed, as has the way the Commission presents legislation with very extensive and cross-border proposals, and our structure can no longer cope with this.”

As increasingly complex proposals span multiple committee domains (for example, digital files falling under the competencies of the Committees on Legal Affairs, Internal Market, and Consumer Protection), a revision of the committees aims to avoid disputes over which committee is responsible for which competency. In response to these challenges, a proposal for reforms has been adopted, outlined in a “reflection paper” from September 13. The plan advocates reducing the number of full committees from 20 to 15.

New committees
Streamlining the committees aims to foster greater coherence and specialization within the Parliament’s legislative activities. New committees could include a mega-committee dedicated to digital policy and a mega-committee on EU expansion – two of the most contentious domains. There is also discussion of upgrading the subcommittee on security and defense to a full-fledged committee. Additionally, the committees on climate and energy will be merged, as will the committees on international trade and development.

Other proposals include the possibility of establishing ad hoc committees to address legislation falling under the competencies of multiple committees. The aim is to streamline and facilitate legislative processes, particularly in dealing with complex issues such as artificial intelligence and corporate governance.

Another goal is to have a stronger voice in trilogue negotiations with EU ministers. A caveat here is that this will result in a more select group of MEPs working on files, especially as this reform also aims to reduce the practice of sharing opinion reports between committees. This select group of MEPs will in turn wield more power and thus be quite influential – perhaps even disproportionately so.

Advocacy opportunities
This restructuring of the Parliament also affects the way organizations and trade bodies organize their policy influencing. When legislative files are discussed in less committees, with less MEPs being able to actively provide input, this means the scope of active participation also becomes more limited. Lobbying efforts will need to concentrate on a smaller set of committees and MEPs, requiring a more strategic and tailored approach. Whereas in the current system you can make your voice heard through multiple entry-points, this new system narrows these opportunities.

However, the introduction of a system where legislative files are discussed within one committee or even a specialized ad-hoc committee will streamline the Parliament’s activities and scale back the various, enormous reports, leading to more transparency and perhaps less complex processes.

Moving Forward – new lobbying options
Ultimately, more MEPs have a say in legislative proposals than just the rapporteur and shadow rapporteurs. However, the new Parliament will need to figure out how to utilize all possible tools within this new structure – the same goes for lobbyists. At the same time, it presents interesting opportunities to provide MEPs with the necessary expertise in drafting new legislation.

As far as the Parliament is concerned, the reforms are set to be swiftly implemented: they were approved in December 2023, with the aim of implementing them before the June European elections. However, a final vote in the plenary session in April is still required for full adoption.

"Since 1989, little has changed in the composition and functioning of these committees, despite significant transformations occurring both within the EU and globally. To keep up with these transformations, the Parliament has proposed a restructuring of their committees."

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