Brussels, 24 May 2023
The “untapped potential” of the Lisbon Treaty must be used, but cannot be an excuse to avoid Treaty changes
EU Treaties should be revised so that “passerelle” activation would not require unanimity
MEPs propose plan for gradual activation, across all areas
MEPs endorsed a set of recommendations to make decision-making in the EU quicker and more efficient, by overcoming the obstacle of unanimity-based decisions.
The Committee on Constitutional Affairs, taking into account the proposals of the Conference on the Future of Europe, has put forward its recommendations on how to increase the EU’s flexibility in overcoming challenges. These revolve around the “passerelle” clauses, i.e. the mechanism through which EU countries can take decisions by qualified majority instead of unanimity in specific policy areas, and include:
Council moving as soon as possible to qualified majority voting (QMV) and ordinary legislative procedures (OLP) in key policy fields, and abandoning unanimity in areas where the Treaties already foresee the use of QMV;
using the “untapped potential” of the Lisbon Treaty that the mechanism represents, while no longer using it as an excuse to postpone a constructive discussion on Treaty changes; and
revising EU Treaties so that activating passerelle clauses should not require unanimity.
The draft report provides a gradual activation timeframe. In the short term (by the end of 2023), the mechanism should be used in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine, in connection to the European green Deal, and for the revision of EU’s long term budget. In the medium term (by the end of 2024), it should be applied to human rights in CFSP and multilateral forums, tax policies, and initiatives against gender-based violence. In the long term (after the 2024 European elections), it should expand to all areas of CFSP, the next Multiannual Financial Framework, social policy and anti-discrimination, and the democratic functioning of the Union.
The report was endorsed with 18 votes in favour, seven against, and no abstentions.
The rapporteur Giuliano Pisapia (S&D, IT) commented:
“Unanimity voting too often hampers the EU’s ability to act. Member states have repeatedly used their veto right to block or delay urgent decisions. The report proposes using passerelle clauses to gradually overcome unanimity and move to qualified majority voting in key areas, including in foreign, fiscal and environmental policies. If activated, they would prevent a single member state from blocking decisions that are supported by the majority of European citizens.”
The draft report is expected be put to the vote during the July plenary session in Strasbourg.
Passerelle clauses can make EU decision-making processes faster and more flexible, without the need to alter the Union’s founding documents. When activated, they can replace unanimity by QMV, or turn a special legislative procedure into an ordinary legislative procedure. In addition to the “general” passerelle clauses, specific ones can also be found in the Treaties for the following areas: environment, social policy, the multiannual financial framework, common foreign and security policy, family law and enhanced cooperation. So far, the mechanism remains largely unused, mostly due to the requirement of a unanimous decision by the Council.