Friday, July 20, 2007

Resources Postings

From time to time I intend to publish information about a resource. It might be anything - a web site or page that is useful for information-gathering, for example - but will ususally be web-based.

My first featured resource will be helpful to lobbyists who follow Brussels' notorious "comitology" committees (see Wikipedia if you don't know what comitology is: I only discovered this resource very recently, having long been deeply suspicious of comitology committees and their workings. It's the European Commission's comitology register, and it contains not only a list of the scores of committees, but more importantly, a search function that allows access to many of the key comitology documents.

You can search by various criteria. I find it most useful to search by committee. The committees are organised by Directorate-General of the European Commission by which the committee is chaired. The drop-down box is very badly designed, but if you click on it and type in "E", for example, you come to the committees chaired by DG EAC (Education and Culture). Further down, you come to ENTR (DG Enterprise) and then ENV (DG Environment).

The most interesting type of document you can find is the Voting Results - they often contain details of votes taken in committee, including how many Member States voted in favour of a Commission proposal, against, or abstained. This, combined with the information on the number of votes under QMV (Qualified Majority Voting), can often tell you pretty precisely which Member States voted how, despite the secrecy of the vote.

Pretty rudimentary functionality, but quite powerful. I'm finding it very useful, as it eliminates the need to rely on busy friends and contacts for leaked copies...

Here's the link:


John said...

A very good resource. I've never really delved into the world of EU documents before and I was wondering if you could shed some light on an issue I found interesting. On the Europa site in addition to the link you give, they have Council of Ministers legislative acts published along with voting records. I skimmed through the results for last year and on legislative acts the United Kingdom had been outvoted a total of four times. I was shocked, is this an extensive list of voting records or is there something I'm misreading? It puts a completely different perspective on Britain's membership if only four pieces of legislation have been passed which our government voted against in the last year.

The link was here -〈=EN&fc=REGAISEN&ff_COTE_MATIERE_PRIM=public&cmsid=551&ff_TITRE=2006

Insideur said...

Glad you thought the resource was useful John. I'm afraid the link you provided doesn't want to work for me, however. Can you tell me how you navigated there?

I tried to find what you were referring to, and I did find the monthly Summaries of Council Acts. I scanned them quickly but could only find two occasions on which the UK was outvoted - both in December. One was on the sale of GMOs in Austria, and the other on bananas. Note that I couldn't find the Summary for October.

The list only contains acts passed, and not those rejected, I think. This could mean that there are some acts where the UK voted in favour but lost due to a blocking minority or majority against.

In answer to your question though, I would not be at all surprised if there had only been 4 occasions on which the UK had been outvoted. In the past, the Council preferred to work by consensus. The low number of QMV votes with opposition may be related to that cultural hangover from a smaller EU.

Bear in mind that the votes published are not all the votes taken - scandalously in my view, some Council votes are still taken in secret.

Also, a cynic might say that an abstention is the same as voting against (I think the UK abstained twice), and that Member States may prefer to abstain if they know they will be outvoted on a sensitive issue so that they don't have to defend themselves against the charge that QMV puts the country at a disadvantage.

But it is essentially correct that the UK is very rarely outvoted. under QMV.

Insideur said...

I am curious to know how you discovered my blog, John, since it is so new! As my first reader to comment, you are an honoured guest!

By the way on re-reading my reply to you, I spotted an omission, which is to mention that voting in Council is now the norm, whereas it might not have been when the EU was smaller!

John said...

Thanks for the answer, I found your blog through google, I forget what the exact query was (something about QMV voting) but your blog showed up as the first result in the "blog search" as ordered by date.