Trilogue transparency: some light on the reform of European Political Party rules

The European Parliament elections are approaching rapidly. Behind the scenes, so-called “informal trilogues” are  taking place to define the rules that will govern EU-level political parties before and during these elections. Those trilogue negotiations are based on the European Parliament vote in April (see the committee report), a “non-paper” that the European Commission has produced, and, from what we hear and read, a patchy set of preferences of EU member states.

Informal trilogues have become the standard in EU law-making, and while they are meant to speed up legislation (there’s no proof of that to my knowledge), they also move legislative deliberations into the back-rooms of Brussels instead of having them in the open environment of the legislating institutions. In “technical trilogues”, it is actually working level officials and assistants from the three institutions that negotiate over EU-law, not politicians.

In defence of Commissioner Maros Sefcovic, who is leading on the European Political Parties file for the Commission side, he’s tweeting about those trilogues (e.g. here, here, here), including a picture of some participants (see above). But that’s not enough to follow the course of negotiations that define European law!

So, some weeks ago we requested summaries/protocols of those trilogue meetings from the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council. This week, we received answers from all of them:

The big question (among others) discussed in the first trilogues was who will, in the end, register European Political Parties. Will it be a neutral, non-political body that ensures the freedom of assembly and the right to create European Political Parties, or will the existing political parties have the power to define which others may join them? Our recommendations have made clear from the start that we definitely prefer a non-political registration process (see Rec D).

From the European Commission, we also received the summary of a meeting that Commissioner Sefcovic had with European Political Party leaders between the first and the second political trilogue in which Sefcovic asked the parties to help speed up the negotiations so that the rules are in place long before the European Parliament elections in 2014. This shows that, more than any other European actor, the European Political Parties seem to be the link between the different major EU institutions: most European Commissioners, most ministers in the Council and most Members of the European Parliament are affiliated to national parties that are members of European Political Parties, some of them even have functions within those EU-level parties. But it is still interesting that those regulated are asked to facilitate reform of their own rules.

The third technical and political trilogues have now taken place (our request for documents was before), and according to the tweets of Commissioner Sefcovic, things are slowly advancing. The summer break is approaching, and so we will have to see when the negotiations will come to an end. With the European Parliament elections being moved forward to May 2014, the deadlines for new Europarty rules have also moved – so hopefully there will be a quick, yet positive outcome!

* Both the European Parliament and the Commission highlighted in their responses that those documents do not represent official positions of the institutions and may not represent the positions of participants to a full extent. You should read them as administrative documents.

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