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Press Releases

19.04.2006

2006 Subsidiarity Conference “Europe begins at home”, Declaration by the Chair

 

1. As part of the debate on the future of Europe, the Austrian Presidency of the EU Council together with the Austrian Parliament and the Federal Land of Lower Austria organised the 2006 European Subsidiarity Conference “Europe begins at home” on 18 and 19 April 2006. Representatives of the EU Member States and the EU institutions discussed with experts ways and means of contributing to a more citizen-oriented approach through a more effective application of the subsidiarity principle in the European legislative process.

2. If the European project is to continue to prove successful in future, Europe’s citizens need to have renewed confidence in the EU. They must therefore be able to identify more closely with the European integration process. A strong Union which is driven by the will of its citizens must take its decisions in a way that is in touch with and comprehensible to them and must achieve the right balance between the EU and its Member States in carrying out its tasks.

3. The EU may – as stated in its founding treaties – only act where the Member States have expressly conferred upon it the power to do so.  In case of doubt, competence lies with the Member States, not the Union. Wherever the EU does not have exclusive competence, it is the subsidiarity principle which applies, i.e. the Union may act only if it can achieve added value compared with the Member States. The subsidiarity principle thus also guarantees that national and regional identity, culture and autonomy are maintained.

4. At all stages of the European legislative process, it must be duly monitored by those involved at both European and national level, whether the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality are respected. It must also be possible, in individual cases, to carry out judicial checks on compliance with the basic idea of subsidiarity.

5. The regions and local authorities share in the responsibility for citizen-oriented European policies. They are in direct contact with the population and are therefore in a position to ensure that account is taken of citizens’ hopes and fears in the European legislative process. They must therefore seek dialogue with Europe’s citizens and make them more aware than hitherto of the European idea, its importance and its objectives, and must help people to identify with Europe and its legal system.

6. The European Commission is invited to involve the regions and local authorities more, and as early as possible, in the preparation of legislative proposals to ensure that European regulations are drafted as close to the citizens as possible. The Commission is also encouraged to consider the impacts of legislative proposals on the local and regional level in the framework of the impact assessment. The Committee of the Regions is invited to further develop its subsidiarity control network so that the results of its subsidiarity checks can be taken into account as much as possible in the drafting of European legal acts.

7. European, national and regional public-service training centres are invited to increase the links between their training programmes on the European legislative process and at the same time to give greater prominence to the subsidiarity principle and to the good cooperation at all levels, in the interest of the citizens.

8. Efforts to improve the legal opportunities for interregional cooperation in Europe must be vigorously pursued as a proven instrument for a peaceful cooperation across borders and to help strengthen the local and regional dimensions.

9. National parliaments dispose, in principle, of two possibilities to contribute to the EU legislative process: through their national governments as well as through direct examination of legislative initiatives of the EU institutions.

10. The national parliaments are urged to make full use of the cooperation opportunities afforded by the Protocols to the Treaty of Amsterdam for the purposes of subsidiarity monitoring.

11. Periodically, the European Parliament and the national parliaments should examine in parallel the legislative initiatives of the EU institutions with regard to the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.

12. On the basis of current EU law, the European Commission is also requested to forward its legislative proposals not only to the European institutions, but at the same time also to the national parliaments, and to review them if a representative number of national parliaments raise justified doubts as to their compatibility with the subsidiarity principle.

13. The Member States are invited to examine ways of allowing their national parliaments to appeal via their governments to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in cases of infringement of the subsidiarity principle.

14. The national and regional parliaments have different methods and procedures for checking compliance with the subsidiarity principle within their respective legal frameworks. Nevertheless, an ongoing exchange of experience and the joint development of best practices can play an important role. The national parliaments are therefore encouraged to strengthen cooperation within the framework of the Conference of European Affairs Committees (COSAC) when monitoring subsidiarity. Furthermore, the regional parliaments are encouraged to strongly pursue this cooperation within the framework of the Committee of the Regions.

15. The European Commission’s initiatives to improve the quality of European legal acts are a very welcome contribution to the promotion of a culture of subsidiarity throughout Europe. In addition, greater emphasis should be placed on the observance of the principle of proportionality when executing Community law.

16. The European Commission is urged, in examining the subsidiarity and proportionality principle in the context of its impact assessments, to base itself more than hitherto on objectively comprehensible data and facts and to incorporate this in the explanatory memoranda of its legislative proposals. The European Commission is also encouraged to apply systematically the method that it has developed for measuring the administrative burdens on citizens and undertakings.

17. Also in the context of simplification of the “acquis communautaire”, the monitoring of compliance with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality should be enforced. In order to make the administrative burdens on the economy and Europe’s citizens as light as possible, the Member States are urged to take initiatives at national level as well to reduce bureaucracy.

18. The Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission are invited to draw up a standard subsidiarity and proportionality check list for the legislative process. That would make it possible for European legislation to focus more on those areas where it has clear advantages over action by individual States. The check list can then also serve as a basis for subsidiarity monitoring by the national parliaments.

19. If compliance with subsidiarity and proportionality is examined on the basis of clear criteria, judicial checks will be easier. The ECJ plays a key role in interpreting and monitoring compliance with European law. As a complement to the efforts of the Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission to ensure greater compliance with the subsidiarity principle, the ECJ is urged, when reaching its decisions, to take particular account of arguments relating to compliance with the subsidiarity principle advanced by the parties to a proceeding.

20. It would be a welcome development if the case law of the ECJ dealt more thoroughly with arguments raised by Member States relating to the social, economic and ecological consequences judgments may have. The impending judgment of the ECJ in a proceeding dealing with the temporal limitation of a preliminary ruling, which gave rise to observations by many Member States, is anticipated with great interest.

21. Finally, as a contribution to further improving mutual understanding at the level of European jurisdiction, a greater exchange of information with national supreme courts might prove useful.

22. The Chair welcomes the wish expressed by those participating in the Conference that work on the effective application of the subsidiarity principle should also continue under future Presidencies.

 

St. Pölten, 19 April 2006

 

Date: 04.05.2006