Accountability at the European Commission: the role of the Member States

In one of my previous post, I tried to explain how we, Officials at the EC, are accountable to the Europarliament. Well there is another layer of accountability towards Members States this time: Comitology.

So you would think that the EC who is getting more and more autonomy could just act as a rogue beast and passed any legislation it wants to. WRONG! Member states are watching us and they make sure, very carefully, that their parochial interests are preserved.

Basically, the EC has the right of initiatives on a large number of topics (eg agriculture, internal market, competition, etc.) but since the 60's, Members States have developed Comitology. In short, there are now more than 250 committees that scrutinize our works and depending on the topic, the EC cannot issue a regulation without the assent of the oversight committee.

I will take two examples:
1) In the Regulatory Procedure, with regard to health for example, the EC can't do a single thing without the agreement of the Committee. If the committee rules against, the Parliament can be consulted. And at the end, the Council of the EU has the final word, ie Member States.

2) In the Management Procedure, with regard to the Common Agricultural Policy for example, the EC can ignore the committee's opinion. Still the Council of the EU has the final word.

As a conclusion, it is clear Member States have a good idea of what we are doing. If they don't and say that EC is coming up with a surprise piece of legislation, then maybe they should be more active in the different committees. I hope it is becoming clear to you what is the role of the EC in the Union. My next post will deal with that question and answer the question of Grahnlaw, a fellow Euroblogger.


  1. How do these committees affect your (personal) daily work in the Commission? Do have frequent contact to member states' experts from these committees?

    And, are they any good, despite making sure that the Commission is not becoming to independent?

  2. The Comitology committees are important. Thus, it is hard to understand that the public has no access to who sit on these committees, and that the European Parliament is allowed that information only under arrangements to handle the information as confidential.

    In my humble opinion, this is one of the many instances where the member states blatantly ignore the principle that 'decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen'. for how can it be a state secret that X, W and Z from the respective ministies of finance represent their governments in a certain committee?

    A little while ago I read the EPIN paper, which concluded that the Commission has weakened by the shift of the 'institutional balance' towards the Council.

    What is your take on the subject?