Allez au contenu, Allez à la navigation



Development of the Senate's European role

 

English version of the Report n° 24 (2009-2010) done by M. Hubert HAENEL (Committee for European Affairs - October 2009)

Available on acrobat format (0,2 Moctets)

INTRODUCTION

The European role of national parliaments is threefold.

Firstly, they have a legislative role , which itself takes two quite different forms.

In the first form, they are the Union's "basic lawmakers" insofar as their approval is necessary for the Union 's most fundamental Acts . T his role is mainly supported by the Treaty of Lisbon, which provides for approval by national parliaments:

- for the review of Treaties (Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU));

- for the accession of new States (Article 49 of the TEU);

- for any decisions on establishing a common defence (Article 42 of the TEU);

- for the establishment of rules relating to the resources of the community budget (Article 310 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)) ;

- for any decisions to supplement the list of the constituent rights of European citizens (Article 25 of the TEU);

- for decisions concerning the passing of a uniform procedure, or of common principles, for ways of electing Members of the European Parliament (Article 223 of the TFEU).

The second form relates to the intervention of national parliaments in the transposition of Directives into national law. This role has not been altered by the Treaty of Lisbon. In fact, Article 288 of the TFEU keeps the definition of a Directive as an instrument that " shall be binding, as to the result to be achieved, upon each Member State to which it is addressed, but shall leave to the national authorities the choice of form and methods" .

National parliaments also have a monitoring role. Today, this role mainly addresses the European action undertaken by individual Governments. However, it has now begun to be applied informally to European Institutions themselves thanks to the "Barroso Procedure", which allows each house of a national parliament to send the European Commission "observations" on adherence to the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality .

 

This monitoring function is undergoing a major change in the French parliament following the Constitutional Review of 23 July 2008, and the reform of the two Houses' Rules of Procedure, which has only recently begun to have an effect. Furthermore, the coming into force of the Treaty of Lisbon will result in the establishment of a subsidiarity monitoring process, which will in turn, and for the first time, enable national parliaments to intervene directly in the Union's ordinary legislative procedure; to this end, they will employ specific legal instruments with a view to ensuring compliance with the principle of subsidiarity. At the appropriate time, the Senate will have to adapt its Rules of Procedure in order to define the ways in which it will carry out this new responsibility .

The subject of this report is the strengthening of the Senate's monitoring function with regard to European matters. It first runs through developments up to the time of the Constitutional Review of 2008, and then sets out the new powers that flow from the review and the ways that have been adopted to implement them by reform of the Rules of Procedure. Later on, it describes how the new responsibilities granted to national parliaments by the Treaty of Lisbon could be addressed in the Senate's Rules of Procedure.

Lastly, it should be borne in mind that the Senate's European role also includes participation in interparliamentary cooperation within the Union . The use of this cooperation for the " good functioning of the Union " is recognised by the Treaty of Lisbon (A rticle 12 of the TEU), and allows parliaments to follow up on the Union's main policies in a collective manner, but this cooperative approach is also important in the way that each parliament carries out its monitoring function thanks to exchanges of information and good practice between houses .

However, as the conditions for this cooperation are not affected, either by internal provisions or by the Treaty of Lisbon, it is an aspect that will not be addressed in this report, which is therefore devoted entirely to the Senate's monitoring function of European matters.

I. PROGRESSIVELY STRENGTHENED POWERS

1. Delegations for the European Union

Until 1979, the year of the first election to the European Parliament by direct suffrage, the French parliament was linked to Building Europe through two of its members whom it had appointed to the European Parliament. However, the essentially economic dimension of Building Europe during this period, together with the traditional conception whereby the French parliament exercised very little control over the Government's external actions , meant that Europe accounted for a very small part of parliamentary work .

The break in the link that flowed from the election of MEPs by indirect suffrage led to the passing of the Law of 6 July 1979 establishing an 18-strong "parliamentary delegation for the European Communities" in each of the houses, but the legislation only gave these delegations an information role on behalf of the houses concerned.

The increase in the number of Community Directives and Regulations after the Single European Act came into force in 1987 made people aware that this organisation needed to be revised. The Law of 10 May 1990 strengthened the Delegations' role: from then on, they had 36 members and the way they operated grew closer to that of a Standing Committee, and in particular Delegations were able to conduct hearings and adopt reports. Moreover, as they had been given an across-the-board task of monitoring work of the European Institutions and the European Parliament's information bodies, they received all texts sent to the Council of the Union and had to be informed by the Government of all negotiations in progress .

2. Article 88-4 of the Constitution

a) European resolutions

Following the logic whereby Delegations were strengthened under the Law of 10 May 1990, the Constitutional Review of 25 June 1992 inserted Article 88-4 into the Constitution, thereby enabling each house to pass resolutions relating to draft European relating to the scope of "law" according the definitions of the French Constitution .

This was an important innovation because the 1958 Constitution, as interpreted by the Constitutional Council, had hitherto banned the two houses from passing resolutions on political issues.

In 1995, the Senate Rules of Procedure handed the Delegation for the European Union a pivotal role in implementing this provision. The Delegation was tasked with carrying out a systematic examination of draft legislation submitted to the Senate under Article 88-4, and was empowered to conclude if a motion for resolution was lodged. This entitlement was now added to the right that all Senators had had since the 1992 Review .

b) The parliamentary scrutiny reserve

In order to ensure that resolutions passed by the two houses were taken into account, a decree from the Prime Minister has established a "parliamentary scrutiny reserve" modelled on the British "scrutiny reserve" system. This mechanism gives both the Senate and the National Assembly a month to express a wish to comment on a piece of draft European legislation under Article 88-4. When such a wish has been clearly articulated, the Government must do everything it can to oppose a final decision being taken at European level before the planned resolution has been passed

c) The procedure for passing resolutions

Prior to the recent Rules of Procedure review, the procedure for passing resolutions had no time constraint. Motions for resolution were sent to the competent Committee, and when the latter had given its ruling, the motion for resolution that it had passed became a resolution of the Senate within ten days unless, during this time, a scrutiny in a plenary sitting is demanded by the President of the Senate, or the President of a Group or Committee, or the President of the Delegation for the European Union or the Government. If, within 15 days of this demand being made, no decision was made to place it on the agenda, the Committee's motion for resolution became a resolution of the Senate .

This procedure contained a number of shortcomings.

To start with, in order to have any influence, European resolutions have to intervene sufficiently early in the negotiating process. Council working groups are set up as soon as a text has been officially presented by the European Commission, and their initial results are fed into informal "trilogues" between the Council, the Commission and the Parliament; these in turn often prefigure the outcome of the negotiations. Although the procedure for passing European legislation is protracted because a range of issues can trigger stalemates, the "window of opportunity" for an effective intervention is relatively short. What is more, in the absence of rules covering deadlines for passing resolutions, these resolutions were often triggered too late: for example, the European resolutions passed by the Senate in 2008 were passed on average six months after transmission of the European legislation they referred to .

The influence of European resolutions also assumes that the Senate monitors how they are followed up: in practice, it has proved difficult to organise regular dialogue with the Government on this matter .

Lastly, European issues are closely interlinked with national issues. They therefore had to be treated in such a way as to involve as many Senators as possible, and not be the prerogative of only some of them. However, little use has so far been made of the right to pass European resolutions in a public sitting, mainly because the conditions for setting the agenda leave little room for parliamentary initiative and monitoring.

As we shall see, the Constitutional Review and the review of the Rules of Procedure have created the conditions in which these shortcomings can be corrected .

3. Debates

Another of the Senate's monitoring instruments has taken the form of "oral questions with debate on European matters" . This procedure makes provision for wide-ranging debate with the Government, together with opportunities to speak on the matter given to: the author of the question; a Senator representing the Delegation for the European Union; a Senator representing the competent Standing Committee; a representative of each political Group; and, with the agreement of the Conference of Presidents, a Senator representing the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and the Armed Forces if the latter Committee believes it is competent to participate in the debate .

Furthermore, it is now usual for there to be a debate in a public sitting before each meeting of the European Council .

4. The "Barroso Procedure"

During the "period of reflection on the future of the Union" that followed the negative referenda in France and the Netherlands , the President of the European Commission took an initiative in support of direct dialogue with national parliaments that focused on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.(1)

This initiative was approved in the Conclusions of the European Council of 15-16 June 2006: " The European Council notes the interdependence of the European and national legislative processes. It therefore welcomes the Commission's commitment to make all new proposals and consultation papers directly available to national parliaments, inviting them to react so as to improve the process of policy formulation. The Commission is asked to duly consider comments by national parliaments - in particular with regard to the subsidiarity and proportionality principles. National parliaments are encouraged to strengthen cooperation within the framework of the Conference of European Affairs Committees (COSAC) when monitoring subsidiarity. The European Council further recalls that the confidence of citizens in the European project can benefit from European legislation reflecting more strongly the added value of EU action. It therefore invites the Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission to consistently check the correct application of the principles and guidelines laid down in the Protocol on subsidiarity and proportionality"

This procedure has steadily established itself, and national parliaments are becoming increasingly active in it. Through the good offices of its Delegation for the European Union, and subsequently through its Committee for European Affairs, the Senate too has participated fully in the procedure, and the European Commission has stated that the Senate had sent more "observations" on subsidiarity and proportionality than any other house .

II. A NEW STAGE

A new stage was marked by the Constitutional Review of 23 July 2008 and the reform of the Rules of Procedure approved by the Constitutional Council on 25 June 2009

A. THE "ACQUIS" OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW

1. The Committees for European Affairs

The Constitutional Review introduced a supplementary paragraph to Article 88-4 of the Constitution, which states that "a Committee charged with European affairs shall be established in each house."

This provision put an end to an anomaly of the French houses of Parliament, together with the Maltese Parliament, being the only houses in the Union not to have such a body. It has led to a fundamental change whereby the Committee "charged with European affairs" is the only Committee that the National Assembly and the Senate are constitutionally obliged to have .

Apart from the fact that the above provision has simplified interparliamentary relations, as the word "delegation" used to be a source of ambiguity, it has opened the way to a reform of the provisions in the Rules of Procedure that relate to European matters. It had previously been uncertain what range of powers could be accorded to Delegations for the European Union under the Constitution.

It is also worth noting that the Committees charged with European affairs do not form part of the "Standing Committees" referred to in Article 43 of the Constitution, and are therefore not competent to examine drafts or proposals for Acts, including texts relating to the ratification of European Treaties or to the transposition of directives .

2. Broadening the scope of Article 88 4

Since the Constitutional Review , the Government has been obliged to submit "drafts or proposals for Acts of the European Communities and the European Union" (2) to the two houses. Previously, this obligation applied solely to drafts and proposals containing provisions relating to the scope of "law as defined by the French Constitution ; what is more, the Government usually submitted texts relating at European level to the codecision procedure, even if they did not come within the purview of the law in France .

The number of texts submitted to the two houses has accordingly increased considerably: before the Review , there were an average of 350 a year, but since then, 650 have been submitted to the two houses even though the Union was reducing its activities during this time as a result of the new Parliament and the end of the Commission's term of office .

Furthermore, texts submitted in this way do not constitute the only possible basis for European resolutions: these may also be based on "any document emanating from an institution of the European Union" . The scope of European resolutions has widened in consequence as the Union now has five "Institutions": the European Parliament, the Council, the Commission, the Court of Justice and the Audit Office. And what is more, the Treaty of Lisbon is about to add the European Council and the European Central Bank to the list .

The broaden scope of new Article 88-4 has already shown its effects in the Senate's European activities. For instance, a simple call for applications by the European Commission to establish a list of experts to consider the legal framework of data protection in the European Union has provided the basis for a draft resolution. The Senate has also passed resolutions based on:

•  a working document relating to nutrient profiles (resolution of 26 May 2009);

•  a proposal for a regulation permitting the production of rosé wine by blending red and white wine (resolution of the 25 May 2009);

•  several "progress reports" on candidate and potentially candidate countries with a view to protesting that such documents are only available in English (Resolution of 25 March 2009).

3. Setting aside part of the agenda for monitoring

Paragraph 4 of Article 48 now states that " During one week of plenary session out of four, priority shall be given, in the order determined by each House, to the monitoring of Government action and to the assessment of public policies. "

This new provision has led to the setting up of a procedure for ensuring the follow-up of the Senate's positions on European matters; this had never really been done before.

This provision came into force on 1 March this year. Since then, the Senate has held three debates concerning the follow-up of its positions on European issues:

- 30 April: four issues were discussed (assessment of the Schengen information system, the involvement of national parliaments in the monitoring of Europol's activities, the implementation of the principle of equal treatment, and the application of patients' rights in cross-border healthcare);

- 11 June: two issues (nutrient profiles and the production of rosé wine by blending red and white wine ) ;

- 25 June: two issues (maternity leave and the publication of "passenger" data on international flights).

Furthermore, the rule, which imposes that a week every month be dedicated to monitoring activities, can only encourage the passing of European resolutions in plenary session. Besides, it enables all Senators to take part to the process. In fact, experience has shown that it was often difficult to insert discussion on European resolutions into the agenda. The "monitoring week" will provide practical opportunities to do so.

B. REFORM OF THE RULES OF PROCEDURE

1. Review of the procedure for passing resolutions

The new edition of the Rules of Procedure, which flows from the resolution passed by the Senate on 2 June, gathers the provisions that deal with European matters together in a single chapter. In its decision of 25 June, the Constitutional Council does not criticise any of the chapter's provisions, and has only clarified the way in which these provisions must combine with constitutional provisions relating to the agenda.

Whereas the European delegations were set up under a law (Article 6 bis of the Ordinance of 17 December 1958), the Committees for European Affairs were established by the Constitution. The Rules of Procedure identify the rules that apply to them, and particularly the number of members (still fixed at 36 in the Senate) and their appointment procedures .

The main change affects the procedure for passing European resolutions

Hitherto, the Committee , as successor to the Delegation, had been tasked with examining the texts submitted to the Senate under A rticle 88-4 of the Constitution, and was allowed to submit a draft resolution on those texts. It follows that the Committee had a general mission to analyse European texts, but as far as the passing of European resolutions was concerned, its powers were those of any Senator: it could table draft resolutions. The follow-up to the procedure was handed over to the competent Committee, which was not constrained by any deadlines.

The revised Rules of Procedure retain the task of examining European texts , but allocate the Committee a more important role in the procedure for passing European resolutions. It is worth remembering that these resolutions may be based on :

- either a draft or a proposal for an act that has been submitted to the Senate by the Government under Article 88-4;

- or any other document emanating from an Institution of the European Union (under the second paragraph of Article 88-4).

There are different procedures for passing resolutions concerning drafts or proposals for acts submitted by the Government and concerning other documents .

·  As far as drafts and proposals for Acts submitted by the Government are concerned, the competent Committee has 15 days to have the text referred to it, if that is the Committee's wish. It must then give a ruling within one month and has 15 days to make a judgement on any external amendments. In these circumstances, the procedure lasts two months unless there is scrutiny in plenary session .

If one or more Senators table a draft resolution on a text that has been referred directly to the competent Committee , that Committee is also competent to examine it.

· In the case of all drafts and proposals for acts that have been submitted by the Government, and which have not been referred to the competent Committee within 15 days, the rule now calls for prior scrutiny by the Committee for European Affairs, which will in turn decide whether to table a draft resolution. It is also competent to scrutinise draft resolutions presented by one or more Senators .

 As far as other documents are concerned, there is no exception to the rule relating to prior scrutiny by the Committee for European Affairs .

·  Another important change concerns the introduction of the "tacit passing" of resolutions. Draft resolutions tabled by the Committee for European Affairs will continue to be submitted to the competent Committee, but if the latter has not given a ruling within a month, the proposal of the Committee for European Affairs will be deemed to have been passed .

·  Lastly, the deadline for a draft resolution that has been passed, or is deemed to have been passed, by a Standing Committee to become a resolution of the Senate has been brought forward substantially. Until now, after a draft resolution was passed by a Committee, a call for scrutiny in plenary had to be made within ten days, and the Conference of Presidents had to give a ruling on the request within 15 days; these periods have now been reduced to three days and seven days respectively .

These new provisions will remedy one of the main drawbacks of the previous procedure: a failure to give sufficient encouragement to the speedy passing of European resolutions. From now on, a decision will be taken in all cases within a deadline that allows time to exert an influence.

It is important to note the spirit, as distinct from the letter, of European resolutions. At the beginning of the European decision-making process , the Senate's task is to formulate objectives for the benefit of the Government: the Senate says what it wishes and what it does not want. A resolution is therefore a political act that guides Government action in one direction or another. It is completely unnecessary for it to take a position on all aspects of a text, and there is usually little point in addressing all the technical aspects as these can change considerably during the course of negotiations .

Later on, during the negotiations or even afterwards, the Senate must turn to the Government - the week devoted to monitoring now makes this much easier - and ask how it has taken into account the Resolution: has the Government gone along with it, and has it been able to influence the decision-making process in this way? Alternatively, if the Government has turned its back on the resolution, which it is entitled to do, why does it think it had to do so? The Government will be aware that it will be called upon to give a report, and will therefore be encouraged to integrate the resolutions more fully into its work .

It is the combination of these two interventions - i.e. at the beginning of the decision-making process by passing a resolution, and subsequently by organising a monitoring debate - that enables the Senate to have dialogue with the Government, and thereby build up influence.

Reform of the Rules of Procedure has also led to changes of less importance:

- the Committee for European Affairs has been given the task of publishing and distributing drafts and proposals for acts submitted to the Senate under Article 88-4 of the Constitution (this provision ensures harmonisation with the National Assembly's procedures, and makes it possible to replace hard-copy distribution of European texts with electronic distribution in all cases);

- the Committee for European Affairs must "in principle" meet on Thursday mornings;

- the President of the competent Committee may appoint a representative to participate in Committee for European Affairs scrutiny of a text or document that is to be the subject of a resolution , thereby fostering continuity between the work of the two Committees and saving time ;

- on oral European questions with debate , the speaking time for the author of the question, the Committee for European Affairs and the competent Committee has been increased: from 10 minutes to 20 minutes for the author of the question, and from 10 minutes to 15 minutes for the two Committees ;

- the Rules of Procedure now clarify how Article 88-5 is to be applied (motions authorising the President of the Republic to submit accessions to the European Union to the Congress instead of holding a referendum).

2. Comparison with the review of the National Assembly's Rules of Procedure

Compared with the provisions followed by the Senate, the National Assembly's text allocates a larger role to the Committee for European Affairs on two counts.

Firstly, in the National Assembly, the Committee for European Affairs will be able to take part in scrutinising national legislative texts "dealing with an area covered by European Union activity" . It will be able to table "observations" on texts before the Committee to which they have been referred , and even in plenary session if the Conference of Presidents gives authorisation .

Secondly, all proposed European resolutions in the National Assembly will be mandatorily "sent for prior scrutiny to the Committee for European Affairs" : in all cases, there will be an initial scrutiny by the Committee for European Affairs, and a subsequently scrutiny by the competent Standing Committee .

By contrast, the competent Standing Committee in the Senate will be able to have referred to it a European text that has been submitted under the first paragraph of Article 88-4 within 15 days of publication, with a view to passing a European resolution directly itself .

The other key differences have less impact:

- there will be 48 members on the National Assembly's Committee for European Affairs and 36 on its counterpart in the Senate;

- the deadline for a European resolution that has been passed, or is deemed to have been passed, to become definitive by not being placed on the agenda of the plenary session will be 15 days in the National Assembly and 10 days in the Senate ;

- with regard to draft European resolutions that do not emanate from it, the Committee for European Affairs will be obliged in the Senate to give a judgement within a month; in the National Assembly, the one-month deadline will also apply if a request comes from the Government or from the President of a Committee or political Group.

III. PERSPECTIVE OF THE COMING ONTO FORCE OF THE LISBON TREATY

The imminent coming into force of the Treaty of Lisbon has prompted reflection on the amendments which will have to be made to the Senate's Rules of Procedure for the exercise of two new responsibilities allocated to national parliaments under the Treaty.

1. Two new responsibilities

Thereafter, information on the comments made by national parliaments must be more widely circulated. Reciprocal information between national parliaments still comes up against obstacles. At the same time, the Council and the European Parliament do not always seem well informed of the existence or content of comments made by parliaments. In order for the dialogue on subsidiarity to have a better chance of changing some of the Commission's attitudes, what it actually needs is for this dialogue to be the starting point of a debate that continues throughout the various stages of the decision-making process.

It would be desirable for all the dialogue - comments from national parliaments and responses from the Commission - to be made public by the European Commission. They could be grouped together on a specific database (which could feature on the IPEX site). Such a database could be useful, not only to national parliaments, but also to the Council and European Parliament, indeed to the Court of Justice.

a) Monitoring subsidiarity

The mechanism enabling national parliaments to oversee compliance with the principle of subsidiarity is in three parts:

- all the houses of a national parliament may send Institutions of the European Union a "reasoned opinion" s etting out the reasons for their belief that a European Commission proposal does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity. If a third of the national parliaments send a " reasoned opinion", the Commission must re-examine the proposal; in the case of texts relating to police cooperation and judicial cooperation on criminal matters, the threshold is reduced to a quarter ;

- if a proposal for an Act is challenged by a majority of national parliaments, but the Commission nevertheless decides to support it, the legislative process is suspended, and the Council and the European Parliament must make a judgement on the proposal's compatibility with the principle of subsidiarity; if the Council (by a majority of 55% of its members) or the Parliament (by a simple majority) vote it down, the proposal is rejected on a permanent basis ;

- after a text has been passed, it may be referred to the Court of Justice by a national parliament or by one of its houses, and the Court must give a ruling on subsidiarity compliance .

b) Opposition rights

Each national parliament has a right to oppose the implementation of "bridging clauses" that allow for a move from a unanimous vote to one of qualified majority for Council decisions, and for another move from a procedure other than the codecision procedure between the European Parliament and the Council to the codecision procedure itself. As soon as the European Council indicates that it intends to use a "bridging clause", the initiative is forwarded to national parliaments. The forwarding process initiates a period of six months during which any national parliament may oppose the implementation of the "bridging clause"; if, when the deadline has passed, no national parliament has announced its opposition, the European Council may give a ruling .

National parliaments may also , in line with an analogous procedure, exercise their opposition rights when the Council decides on the list of aspects of family law that could be the subject of European legislation under the codecision procedure.

2. The corresponding Articles in the Constitution

The Constitutional Review of 4 February 2008, which preceded France 's ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon, introduced into the Constitution two articles devoted to these new responsibilities. These are "conditional articles", as their coming into force is linked to an exchange of instruments of ratification between all member states .

Article 88-6 relates to the monitoring of subsidiarity:

"T he National Assembly or the Senate may issue a reasoned opinion as to the conformity of a draft proposal for a European Act with the principle of subsidiarity. Said opinion shall be addressed by the President of the House involved to the Presidents of the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission. The Government shall be informed of said opinion.

Each House may institute proceedings before the Court of Justice of the European Union against a European Act for non-compliance with the principle of subsidiarity. Such proceedings shall be referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union by the Government.

For the purpose of the foregoing, resolutions may be passed, even if Parliament is not in session, in the manner set down by the Rules of Procedure of each House for the tabling and discussion thereof. Such proceedings shall be obligatory upon the request of sixty Members of the National Assembly or sixty Senators. "

Article 88-7 relates to opposition rights:

"Parliament may, by the passing of a motion in identical terms by the National Assembly and the Senate, oppose any modification of the rules governing the passing of Acts of the European Union in cases provided for under the simplified revision procedure for treaties or under judicial cooperation on civil matters, as set forth in the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, as they result from the Treaty signed in Lisbon on December 13, 2007."

3. What effect will this have on the Rules of Procedure?

a) Reasoned opinions

Article 88-6 gives no indication of how "reasoned opinions" are to be passed on subsidiarity, and it thereby implicitly refers the matter back to the two houses' Rules of Procedure. The National Assembly has moved swiftly, its procedure for passing resolutions now aligned with the procedure applied to Article 88-4 resolutions. However, under the terms of the Treaty, the total duration of the procedure must not exceed eight weeks; in order to accelerate the scrutiny, the length of the period at the end of which the competent Committee is deemed to have approved the proposal from the Committee for European Affairs must not exceed 15 days; and the Committee for European Affairs itself must pass its draft reasoned opinion within 15 days if the Government or the President of a Group or Committee requires it to do so. Alignment with the procedure in Article 88-4 also imposes that the 15-day period provided for the passing of any resolution in plenary session is included in the total duration of 8 weeks.

It is theoretically possible to pass a reasoned opinion by following all the stages for passing a resolution under Article 88-4, but such a deadline might appear hard to meet. However, given the large number of texts to be examined, and the fact that a subsidiarity issue can be found in any provision of these texts, the deadline for investigating seems very short. With 15 clear days put aside for the competent Committee and another 15 reserved for any transfer to plenary session, the Committee for European Affairs will have under four weeks to make a systematic analysis of the texts that have been sent to it and to pass a draft reasoned opinion .

Not only does the assimilation of the Article 88-6 procedure to the Article 88-4 procedure make it unlikely that good use will be made of the eight-week deadline laid down in the Treaty for reasoned opinions ; it is also highly open to question .

In fact, there is a fundamental difference between the resolutions in Article 88-4 and the "reasoned opinions" in Article 88-6.

The two houses have different interlocutors : under Article 88-4, it is the Government that submits texts and receives resolutions, whereas in the case of reasoned opinions , it is European Institutions that send texts directly to national parliaments and receive reasoned opinions .

The two procedures also have different objectives : Article 88-4 allows each house to adopt a position on the content of a text for the information of the Government , whereas a reasoned opinion sent to European Institutions of the European Union only concerns compliance with the principle of subsidiarity , and it cannot therefore deal with the content of a text .

Furthermore, they are not operated in the same spirit either: Article 88-4 is one of the Parliament's instruments for monitoring the Government and a means for dialogue between the Parliament and the Government. It is a national procedure. By contrast, a "reasoned opinion" is a European procedure that brings national parliaments into direct contact with the Institutions of the European Union, and encourages national parliaments to consult among themselves . Only if a third of the national parliaments send a reasoned opinion - a quarter if it deals with judicial cooperation on criminal matters and police cooperation - is it mandatory for the proposal for an Act to be re-examined .

It would be better if the procedure were adapted to the specific features of reasoned opinions.

The fundamental feature on which to base this analysis is the short period of time granted to national parliaments : eight weeks. Debates in the Conference of Community and European Affairs Committees of Parliaments of the European Union (COSAC) and experience of dialogue under the "Barroso Initiative" have shown that parliaments have not always found the deadline easy to meet .

However, the deadline is not solely indicative : the period of eight weeks granted for passing reasoned opinions is identical to the period during which, under the terms of the Protocol on the Role of National Parliaments in the European Union , the Council must refrain from giving rulings, whether formally or informally, on a proposal for an Act. The eight-week deadline for reasoned opinions is designed to prevent the European Commission from having to re-examine a proposal, if necessary, whereas the Council would have already given its judgement. That explains why national Parliaments have to examine texts urgently.

How should we proceed?

The possibility of tabling a draft reasoned opinion must naturally be left open to all Senators .

When determining which body of the Senate will be required to examine reasoned opinions , two factors need to be taken into account :

- the first relates to the need to define criteria for assessing subsidiarity. These criteria must obviously take into consideration the reasoned opinions sent in by other national Parliaments, the European Commission's responses to them, as well as the decisions that the Court of Justice will have to take. The assessment criteria must not vary according to the issues addressed, but be based on an overall coherent approach to all actions of the European Union ;

- the second derives from the need to conduct an interparliamentary consultation exercise . R easoned opinions will have all the more impact if they are convergent and presented in large numbers. It will therefore be necessary both to establish and to use a form of network involving the 40 national houses of Parliament so that they can keep abreast of developments, exchange arguments and ideas, and function on a joint basis .

These factors might suggest that the body best suited to examining reasoned opinions might be the Committee for European Affairs. Indeed, this Committee brings together parliamentarians who come from all the other Standing Committees and have a particular interest in European matters; they are also used to meetings with other houses, the Commission and the Council under the COSAC umbrella .

Furthermore, the transversal nature of the activities and composition of the Committee for European Affairs, together with its general mission to monitor all work carried out by Institutions of the European Union, enable it to focus on application of the principle of subsidiarity, irrespective of the ruling given on the content of the proposal in question.

In practice, as far as the Senate is concerned, the Committee for European Affairs, as successor to the Delegation for the European Union, has been the European Commission's interlocutor in the informal dialogue on subsidiarity and proportionality instigated in September 2006 on the initiative of President Barroso. This formula has turned out to be effective. As this report has already made clear, the Senate has proved to be the most active house in this field.

Would an appeal procedure be required for the reasoned opinions that the Committee for European Affairs has to pass if it were allocated this responsibility? For reasons associated with the deadline, it would be unrealistic to move to a plenary session for a possible second scrutiny. Moreover, although this formula has been used by the National Assembly, one wonders whether it would be appropriate to carry out this second scrutiny before the competent Committee. Is it not likely that this Committee, given the texts are transmitted to it on a case-by-case basis, would mainly reach its decisions on the basis of the content of the planned action, whereas the monitoring of subsidiarity does not deal with the validity of the action, but rather with the question of which is the better level for the exercise: European level or national level ?

Assuming that an appeal procedure is considered essential, it would certainly be preferable, in order to preserve the spirit of the exercise and acknowledge the short time-span, to provide that the appeal must be brought before a generalist body, and that it will fail if this appeal body is unable to meet before the deadline .

The appeal procedure could be based on the following principles:

- the reasoned opinion can be challenged by the President of any Group or Committee ;

- the challenge can be formulated no more than three days after the reasoned opinion has been passed by the Committee for European Affairs ;

- the challenge can be heard before the Conference of Presidents , an unquestionably generalist body, and will fail if the Conference is unable to meet within ten days after the challenge was made.

The right to challenge a reasoned opinion must not be used to invalidate the whole procedure by using the constraints of the deadline: it has its raison d'être in the area of real political problems, and must lead to an explicit conclusion.

However, one can imagine that, if there were to be a real political problem, it would normally be possible to call a meeting of the Conference of Presidents within ten days.

b) Proceedings before the Court of Justice

In order to facilitate the implementation of the first paragraph of Article 8 of the Protocol on the Application of the Principles of Subsidiarity and Proportionality , the second paragraph of Article 88-6 of the Constitution provides that " Each House may institute proceedings before the Court of Justice of the European Union against a European Act for non-compliance with the principle of subsidiarity. Such proceedings shall be referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union by the Government. "

The initiative of taking proceedings must naturally be offered to all Senators . Logically, the Committee for European Affairs should be the body that investigates these proceedings , even though it is already tasked with examining reasoned opinions arising out of Article 88-6 of the Constitution.

However, as regards to the deadlines issued to national parliaments in these circumstances, it should be possible on the occasion for a decision to be reached in plenary session . It is quite clear that, under the terms of the Treaty, the proceedings must take place within two months after the Act was published. Two months instead of eight weeks: the difference between the reasoned opinions seems quite small, but the situations are quite different .

In reasoned opinions, a proposal, whose scope and implications are not always evident, is examined for the very first time; its various provisions need to be analysed in order to identify what might lead to a breach of the principle of subsidiarity .

On the contrary, when proceedings are brought before the Court of Justice, there is no more than a simple check to ensure that a known text - one that has been previously examined and whose drafting process has been monitored - is likely, in its final form, to run counter to the principle of subsidiarity. Investigation of the proceedings much quicker, and can even be completed before the text is finally passed .

Accordingly, it might be possible to provide that, following scrutiny by the Committee for European Affairs, the normal appeal procedure takes place in plenary session , unless, given the constraints of the deadline, the Conference of Presidents challenges the view that it is not practical to move to plenary session and therefore decides to rule on the issue itself .

At all events, an appeal will have to be made to the Court of Justice if 60 Senators make such a request. It will be necessary for the Rules of Procedure to include a provision dealing with the transfer of such an appeal to the Government.

c) Opposition to a modification of the rules for passing Acts

Conditional Article 88-7 of the Constitution provides that :

" Parliament may, by the passing of a motion in identical terms by the National Assembly and the Senate, oppose any modification of the rules governing the passing of Acts of the European Union in cases provided for under the simplified revision procedure for treaties or under judicial cooperation on civil matters, as set forth in the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, as they result from the treaty signed in Lisbon on December 13, 2007. "

This power to oppose, which is open to all national parliaments, may be exercised in the event of:

- a decision by the European Council authorising the Council to give a ruling by a qualified majority instead of a unanimous vote;

- a decision by the European Council or the Council (family law with a cross-border factor) authorising the passing of certain Acts under the normal legislative procedure (the current Codecision Procedure) instead of a special legislative procedure .

The Constitution has retained the procedure for the passing of "a motion in identical terms by the National Assembly and the Senate" , that is to say a procedure that is analogous to the one established to allow the two houses to put Government bills to a referendum under Article 11 of the Constitution. This procedure rules out the possibility of any amendment .

As this concerns a review of the Treaties under a particular procedure, the body that examines the motion must be the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and the Armed Forces .

Lastly, the provisions of Article 88-7 imply that the motion must be passed in plenary session . The six-month deadline given to each national parliament to express its opposition ensures that it will always be possible to proceed in this way .

CONCLUSION

The parliamentary monitoring of European affairs is a field in which the Senate has a particular responsibility.

For one thing, it is one in which the two houses operate on an equal footing in respect of both the implementation of Article 88-4 and the exercise of the new responsibilities allocated to nationals parliaments by the Treaty of Lisbon.

For another, the Senate represents the local bodies of the French Republic , and accordingly has a role to play in bringing Europe closer to citizens.

It is a concern that we must keep constantly in mind when looking either at the results of the referendum on the Constitutional Treaty or at the turn-out in European elections; at all events, there is a clear divide between the European construction and a large number of our fellow-citizens.

It is not the European idea that is under threat, but the functioning of the Union : its Institutions often seem remote, hard to understand and difficult to monitor.

French parliamentarians in general, and Senators in particular, must work hard to narrow this divide. Both the Constitutional review and the Treaty of Lisbon give them the tools with which to do that. Our house will need to make full use of them.

It is also important to make clear that in European matters more than in other fields, influence is gained over time. For example, through its Committee for European Affairs, the Senate has participated actively in the dialogue on subsidiarity and proportionality instigated on the initiative of President Barroso, and it has taken some time for this involvement to bear fruit. However, this dialogue may now, in certain cases, make it possible to ensure that the concerns articulated by the Senate are effectively taken into account either by the European Commission or by the Government when reaching its decision.

Because of its electoral system and the kind of relationship that it has with the Government, the Senate is well placed to stand back and address its long-term concerns. If observed in this light, the Senate's work may be particularly complementary to that of the National Assembly.

It follows that the Senate must perform its European role to the full, and contribute to the process of, if necessary, "democratising" the Union . There is no doubt that the European construction will increasingly become everybody's business.

ANNEXES

ANNEXE I
EXAMEN EN COMMISSION

La commission s'est réunie le jeudi 8 octobre 2009 pour l'examen du présent rapport. À l'issue de la présentation faite par le rapporteur, M. Hubert Haenel, le débat suivant s'est engagé :

 

M. Denis Badré :

Ce rapport vient à son heure. A une époque pas si lointaine, nous avions l'impression de déranger en parlant d'Europe. Aujourd'hui, ce n'est plus vrai, et le traité de Lisbonne reconnaît un rôle aux parlements nationaux. Plus généralement, il y a une avancée de fond vers un fonctionnement plus démocratique de l'Union. Nous devons apporter notre pierre et faire vivre le nouveau dispositif.

En France, le dialogue direct entre la Commission européenne et les assemblées est apparu comme une nouveauté exorbitante ; dans les autres pays, il a été plus facilement admis. Ce dialogue doit vraiment entrer dans les mœurs et le Gouvernement doit l'accepter.

La subsidiarité va être au cœur des débats européens, qu'il s'agisse du budget ou de l'exercice des compétences. Nous devons aller vers des partages de responsabilité plus précis et mieux compris. Le dialogue sur la subsidiarité est en soi quelque chose de très sain : il doit aider à sortir de la confusion.

Je voudrais par ailleurs souligner trois points.

Tout d'abord, nous avons besoin de relations plus structurées entre le Parlement européen et les parlements nationaux. Aujourd'hui, il y a la COSAC , au sein de laquelle le Parlement européen ne pèse pas très lourd, et les réunions interparlementaires organisées à Bruxelles, où ce sont les parlements nationaux qui pèsent trop peu. Il faudrait parvenir à un dialogue équilibré, ce qui suppose qu'il soit mieux structuré, mieux encadré.

Deuxième point : quand on dit qu'il faut impliquer les parlements nationaux dans les questions européennes, cela signifie qu'il faut que tous les parlementaires nationaux s'impliquent. L'Europe doit devenir l'affaire de tous, et, pour cela, il faut notamment multiplier les travaux communs entre notre commission et les autres commissions du Sénat.

Troisième point : qui contrôle quoi ? Quelle est la part des parlements nationaux dans le contrôle de l'Exécutif européen ? J'ai été frappé, en découvrant comment travaille le Riksdag suédois, du contrôle très étroit qu'exercent les députés suédois sur leur gouvernement. Je ne dis pas que nous devons les imiter, mais je crois qu'il faut réfléchir à un meilleur contrôle.

M. Simon Sutour :

Effectivement, ce rapport intervient à un moment important. Les questions européennes ne vont plus être traitées de la même façon. Le traité de Lisbonne va entrer en application ; il y a eu la révision constitutionnelle, puis la réforme du Règlement.

Notre commission n'a plus grand-chose à voir avec la délégation à laquelle elle a succédé. Je ne sais pas combien de temps nous pourrons conserver la règle selon laquelle les membres de notre commission doivent être également membres d'une autre commission. En pratique, il va falloir choisir. Je comprends les réticences, mais je ne vois pas comment, les uns et les autres, nous arriverons à tout faire.

Je crois, moi aussi, que le dialogue avec le Parlement européen n'est pas assez développé, et qu'il sera désormais plus nécessaire. Quand j'étais rapporteur de la réforme de l'OCM viti-vinicole, on m'avait dit : inutile de rencontrer les parlementaires européens, dans ce domaine ils donnent simplement un avis ; avec le traité de Lisbonne, ce sera désormais la procédure de codécision qui s'appliquera. En même temps, les parlementaires européens souhaitent que les parlementaires nationaux relaient leurs préoccupations auprès des gouvernements. Il faut donc sortir de l'indifférence réciproque. Je souhaite qu'il y ait davantage d'auditions de parlementaires européens. L'audition d'Alain Lamassoure, la semaine dernière, n'était pas un bon exemple, car elle a eu lieu pendant les journées parlementaires socialistes, ce qui nous a empêchés d'y assister, mais, sur le principe, je crois qu'il faut multiplier les auditions de ce type. Je souscris globalement aux propositions figurant dans le rapport, sauf en ce qui concerne la procédure d'appel pour les avis motivés. La Conférence des présidents ne me paraît pas une instance adéquate car elle amplifie les majorités...

M. Hubert Haenel :

Désormais, la Conférence des présidents vote selon une pondération : les voix de chaque président de groupe dépendent des effectifs de son groupe.

M. Christian Cointat :

La Conférence des présidents est devenue un organe représentatif.

M. Simon Sutour :

Malgré tout, je préfèrerais que, en cas d'appel, il y ait une décision en séance publique, ou alors que ce soit éventuellement la commission compétente au fond qui soit l'instance d'appel.

Mme Monique Papon :

Ce rapport est intéressant et utile ; je dirais qu'il est fondateur pour notre commission. Je suis d'accord pour dire qu'il faut essayer d'impliquer tous les parlementaires dans les questions européennes, mais il faut reconnaître qu'il y a beaucoup de chemin à faire ! Si nous voulons que les sénateurs soient présents en séance plénière pour les débats européens, il faut donner de meilleurs créneaux horaires pour ces débats. Il faut que nous soyons vigilants sur ce point.

Je comprends la nécessité d'une plus grande concertation entre parlements ; le rôle de la COSAC a été évoqué, mais je note qu'avec 27 parlements, il y a déjà 40 assemblées : ce ne sera pas simple de mettre en place un réseau qui fonctionne !

Mme Annie David :

Il était bon de lancer la réflexion, alors que le traité de Lisbonne va changer les choses. Je suis d'accord pour une meilleure implication des parlements nationaux, et pour reconnaître qu'il y a beaucoup à faire pour cela dans notre pays. Mais cela concerne aussi le Gouvernement : j'observe qu'à l'occasion de l'examen par le Sénat du projet de loi sur le Grenelle de l'Environnement, le Gouvernement a obtenu une habilitation à transposer par ordonnances certaines directives européennes. Pour que les parlementaires puissent s'impliquer, il faut aussi que le Gouvernement accepte de jouer le jeu !

M. Pierre Fauchon :

Je voudrais revenir sur deux points.

Le premier est la spécialisation de notre commission. Je reconnais que l'appartenance à deux commissions pose à chacun de nous des problèmes compliqués. Mais on ne peut pas mettre à part les questions européennes : elles sont indissociables des affaires nationales. Nous le voyons pour les résolutions de l'article 88-4 : notre commission doit ouvrir la voie, mais pour les textes importants, il faut que la commission saisie au fond intervienne, car il y a toujours un lien entre affaires européennes et nationales.

Deuxième point : il ne faut pas se faire d'illusions sur ce que peuvent faire aujourd'hui collectivement les parlements nationaux. Avec quarante assemblées, cela devient très lourd. Il faut associer étroitement les parlements nationaux, les informer, leur donner un rôle en matière de subsidiarité, mais si nous devons aller vers une vraie structure fédérale en Europe, il faudra poser le problème autrement. Dans une structure fédérale, il faut une seconde Chambre représentant les États membres : il y a une première Chambre représentant les citoyens et une seconde Chambre représentant les États. Et ces représentants des États, dans le cas de l'Europe, devraient être élus par les parlements nationaux. Je crois qu'il faudra un jour en arriver là et je souligne que cela ne réduirait pas le rôle de chaque parlement à l'échelon national. On nous dit que le Conseil des ministres est déjà une seconde Chambre : ce n'est pas tenable. Le Conseil est une instance intergouvernementale, ce n'est pas une assemblée parlementaire.

Mme Bernadette Bourzai :

J'ai également été intéressée par le rapport ; mes observations rejoignent celles de Simon Sutour : appartenir à deux commissions devient de plus en plus difficile, il faudra trouver une solution. Je crois que nous avons intérêt à nous rapprocher des autres parlements nationaux et à développer les auditions de présidents de commissions du Parlement européen : en effet, même si le budget européen demeure relativement modeste, les prochaines perspectives financières auront une importance capitale pour l'avenir de la politique agricole commune et de la politique de cohésion. Nous devrons nous faire entendre.

M. Jean Bizet :

Je partage la plupart des observations qui ont été faites, d'où qu'elles viennent ; c'est un signe de maturité de notre commission, à mon avis, qu'il n'y ait pas entre nous d'opposition systématique sur tous les sujets, même si ce climat nous est parfois reproché. Nous avons encore beaucoup de chemin à parcourir pour faire partager nos préoccupations à tous nos collègues. On entend moins les slogans simplistes sur le thème : « C'est la faute à l'Europe » , mais il y a encore une grande méconnaissance de la construction européenne. Je crois qu'il faut améliorer les rapports avec le Gouvernement en amont et en aval des réunions du Conseil. Le débat avant les réunions du Conseil européen est parfois artificiel. Dans les pays d'Europe du Nord, c'est presque un mandat que les parlements donnent au Gouvernement ...

M. Pierre Fauchon :

Au Danemark, c'est un mandat !

M. Jean Bizet :

Il faut en tout cas un dialogue plus serré et un suivi des positions qui sont prises. Ce n'est pas seulement un problème à l'échelon national. À l'échelon européen, le commissaire Mandelson avait un mandat du Conseil pour négocier le cycle de Doha, et, quand on regarde attentivement le « pré-accord » agricole accepté par l'Europe en juillet 2008, on voit que ce mandat a été transgressé.

M. Christian Cointat :

J'approuve le rapport et je me reconnais dans la plupart des observations des autres intervenants. Je dirais volontiers qu'il faut trouver un juste milieu entre l'Europe du Nord et notre situation. Si nous avions vingt-sept mandats impératifs autour de la table du Conseil, tout serait bloqué ; pour autant, on ne peut accepter que le Gouvernement se borne à nous informer et à nous écouter poliment : il faut un réel dialogue, qui nous permette d'avoir une influence.

M. Simon Sutour :

Je partage ce point de vue. Lors des débats qui précèdent le Conseil européen, les orateurs sont souvent loin du sujet, car ils ne croient pas pouvoir influencer le Gouvernement. Et je ne parle pas de la dévalorisation qu'entraîne, le cas échéant, le recours au « petit hémicycle ».

M. Hubert Haenel :

Je voudrais tout d'abord indiquer que notre collègue Robert Badinter m'a fait savoir qu'il approuvait le rapport.

Je suis d'accord avec Denis Badré pour constater que le nouveau rôle des parlements nationaux heurte des habitudes bien ancrées du côté gouvernemental. Nous rencontrons des résistances ; malheureusement, il faut encore exiger pour exister. Pour les relations avec le Parlement européen, nous venons de loin : il n'y avait pas d'habitude de travail en commun ; maintenant les choses vont en s'améliorant. Les réunions organisées conjointement par le Parlement européen et le Parlement du pays exerçant la présidence sont un bon moyen d'arriver à un équilibre dans les droits d'expression. Il est difficile de définir l'Exécutif européen, le contrôle doit prendre diverses voies ; en tout cas, il est sûr que nous devons contrôler notre propre Exécutif : c'est un des aspects de la question.

Je reconnais que Simon Sutour pose un vrai problème en soulignant la difficulté de participer à la fois à nos travaux et à ceux d'une autre commission. Il faut d'abord chercher des solutions sur le plan pratique. Pour ce qui est de la procédure d'appel pour les avis motivés, on peut certainement améliorer mes propositions, par exemple prévoir un passage en séance publique et un recours à la Conférence des présidents seulement si ce n'est pas possible. Je ne prétends pas avoir fourni tout de suite la solution idéale. En revanche, je ne partage pas les critiques concernant le « petit hémicycle » : la parole y est plus libre et davantage de collègues peuvent intervenir.

Comme Monique Papon, je crois que nous devrons faire vivre de notre mieux les procédures introduites par le traité de Lisbonne, et qu'il faut pour cela renforcer la concertation interparlementaire. La présidence espagnole a été chargée par la COSAC de s'emparer du sujet. Déjà, le 12 décembre prochain, les présidents de Parlement vont aborder ce sujet essentiel.

Je répondrai à Annie David que le problème des transpositions de directives par ordonnances revient régulièrement : c'est effectivement inacceptable dès lors qu'il ne s'agit pas de textes de nature technique. Nous avons de la peine à nous faire entendre en amont de l'adoption des textes, si nous sommes écartés aussi de la transposition, le Parlement est squeezé .

Je crois que Pierre Fauchon a raison de vouloir que notre commission ne devienne pas une commission spécialisée, et qu'elle travaille avec les autres commissions. Pour ce qui est de la seconde Chambre, nous avons essayé de lancer le débat durant la Convention  : ce fut une levée de boucliers. Mais je crois que les esprits évolueront. Je reste attaché à l'idée d'un « Congrès » qui se réunirait une fois par an pour un grand débat, une reddition des comptes, et qui pourrait jouer un rôle dans la révision simplifiée des traités ; cette instance permettait d'associer régulièrement des délégués des parlements nationaux à la vie de l'Union. Au stade actuel de la construction européenne, ce serait à mon avis une formule bien adaptée.

Je suis d'accord avec Bernadette Bourzai pour renforcer les contacts avec le Parlement européen, notamment dans la perspective de la révision des perspectives financières et des enjeux de celle-ci pour la PAC.

Comme Jean Bizet, je me réjouis que la « politique politicienne » n'ait pas une trop grande place dans nos travaux. Je voudrais souligner que, désormais, avec le traité de Lisbonne, les parlementaires ne pourront plus se défausser sur l'Europe : comme ils auront désormais des instruments d'intervention, ils auront à rendre compte de leur utilisation. S'ils critiquent un texte européen, on pourra leur répondre : « Pourquoi n'avez-vous rien fait ? ».

Pour nos rapports avec le Gouvernement, je ne rêve pas d'un mandat impératif, qui serait d'ailleurs contraire à la Constitution , mais je constate que nous sommes loin du « juste milieu » que Christian Cointat propose à bon droit.

 


ANNEXE II

La décision du Conseil constitutionnel

SUR L'ARTICLE 32 DE LA RÉSOLUTION  :

31. Considérant que l'article 32 donne une nouvelle rédaction du chapitre XI bis du règlement relatif aux affaires européennes ; que ce chapitre comporte les articles 73 bis à 73 septies ; qu'en particulier, l'article 73 quinquies définit les modalités d'examen des propositions de résolution relative aux projets ou propositions d'acte transmis au Sénat sur le fondement de l'article 88-4 de la Constitution et dénommée « résolution européenne » ; que la proposition de résolution déposée par un sénateur sur un projet ou une proposition d'acte dont ne s'est pas saisie la commission permanente compétente est renvoyée pour un examen préalable à la commission chargée des affaires européennes ; que le texte adopté par cette dernière est transmis pour examen à la commission permanente compétente ; que, dans cette hypothèse, si dans un délai d'un mois suivant la transmission de ce texte, la commission saisie au fond n'a pas déposé son rapport, le texte de la résolution adopté par la commission des affaires européennes est considéré comme adopté par la commission saisie au fond ; que ce texte peut faire l'objet d'une demande d'inscription à l'ordre du jour du Sénat dans le délai de trois jours francs suivant la date de la publication du rapport de la commission ou l'expiration du délai au terme duquel le texte est considéré comme adopté ;

32. Considérant qu'en vertu du deuxième alinéa de l'article 48 de la Constitution , le Gouvernement dispose, deux semaines de séance sur quatre, d'une priorité pour faire inscrire les textes de son choix à l'ordre du jour ; qu'aux termes de son cinquième alinéa « un jour de séance par mois est réservé à un ordre du jour arrêté par chaque assemblée à l'initiative des groupes d'opposition de l'assemblée intéressée ainsi qu'à celle des groupes minoritaires » ; qu'il suit de là que le Gouvernement ainsi que les groupes d'opposition et les groupes minoritaires dans le cadre du jour de séance mensuel qui leur est réservé ont le droit de demander que le Sénat se prononce sur cette proposition avant l'expiration du délai d'un mois prévu par le quatrième alinéa de l'article 73 quinquies ;

33. Considérant que, dans ces conditions, les dispositions de l'article 32 de la résolution ne sont pas contraires à la Constitution ;

 

Le Conseil constitutionnel a validé sans restriction les nouvelles dispositions du Règlement concernant les affaires européennes. Il a toutefois apporté une précision - que l'on retrouve également dans la décision rendue sur le Règlement de l'Assemblée nationale : lorsque la commission des affaires européennes aura adopté une proposition de résolution, durant le délai d'un mois accordé à la commission compétente au fond pour se prononcer sur cette proposition ou l'adopter tacitement, le Gouvernement (en utilisant alors les semaines où il fixe l'ordre du jour prioritaire) ainsi que les groupes d'opposition et les groupes minoritaires (en utilisant alors le jour de séance mensuel qui leur est réservé) pourront provoquer un examen en séance plénière avant la fin de ce délai.


ANNEXE III

Un exemple : la directive sur la mise en œuvre
du principe d'égalité de traitement

 

La Commission des affaires sociales du Sénat a adopté une proposition de résolution, devenue résolution du Sénat le 17 novembre 2008, au sujet d'une directive en discussion sur la mise en œuvre du principe d'égalité de traitement.

Illustrant bien la nature des résolutions prévues à l'article 88-4, cette résolution est clairement inspirée par une préoccupation politique : il s'agit, avant tout, de réaffirmer la validité de l'universalisme républicain, face à un texte jugé porteur d'un risque d'encouragement au communautarisme :

« Considérant que la discrimination est l'intention de nuire à une personne en raison de ses caractéristiques personnelles et que l'inégalité de traitement est le résultat d'un constat empirique selon lequel une personne est moins bien traitée qu'une autre placée dans une situation identique, qu'il en résulte qu'une inégalité de traitement peut se produire sans discrimination ;

Considérant qu'en raison de la confusion que sa rédaction actuelle entretient entre inégalité de traitement et discrimination, la proposition de directive ne protège que certains citoyens contre l'inégalité de traitement dans les domaines auxquels elle s'applique ; qu'elle est en conséquence, en l'état présent, insuffisante et injuste ;

Considérant qu'en ne posant pas l'existence d'un principe général d'égalité de traitement s'appliquant à tous, la proposition de directive encourage indirectement la création de communautés de personnes bénéficiant de droits particuliers et s'inscrit donc dans une démarche communautariste ;

Considérant en conséquence qu'en ne respectant pas l'égalité de tous les citoyens devant la loi, elle est contraire aux principes fondamentaux de la République qui soutiennent une démarche universaliste préconisant la définition de principes communs et rassembleurs ; (...)

En conséquence :

Demande que la directive distingue clairement la discrimination de l'inégalité de traitement ;

Estime impératif que soit posé un principe général d'égalité de traitement dans les domaines d'application de la directive, afin que la législation communautaire protège équitablement l'ensemble des citoyens de l'Union ;

S'oppose fermement à la rédaction actuelle de l'article 2 qui, appliqué notamment au service public, méconnaît le principe fondamental d'égalité des citoyens devant la loi et comporte des risques sérieux de dérives communautaristes ; (...)

Demande solennellement au Gouvernement de s'opposer à l'adoption d'un texte qui ne répondrait pas à ces préconisations. »

Cette résolution a été l'une des premières à faire l'objet d'un suivi en séance publique.

Le 30 avril, dans le cadre de la première « semaine de contrôle », le Gouvernement a été interpellé par la rapporteuse de cette résolution, Mme Muguette Dini :

«  C'est avec un sentiment de colère et de profonde frustration, monsieur le secrétaire d'État, que je m'adresse à vous aujourd'hui, au nom de notre assemblée.

Sentiment de colère, profonde et légitime, parce que le Gouvernement ou les fonctionnaires qui le représentent à Bruxelles n'ont tenu aucun compte de la résolution européenne adoptée par le Sénat le 17 novembre dernier sur la sixième directive anti-discrimination en cours de discussion au Conseil.

Permettez-moi, monsieur le secrétaire d'État, mes chers collègues, de vous faire mesurer la réalité et l'ampleur du déni dont la volonté du Sénat a fait l'objet.

Nous avons demandé aux autorités françaises qui nous représentent à Bruxelles de veiller à obtenir une modification de l'article 2 de la directive, qui, en l'état actuel de sa rédaction, remet en cause l'égalité des citoyens devant la loi, principe fondamental de notre République, vous en conviendrez.

Le 21 novembre dernier, lors de la réunion du Conseil consacrée aux questions sociales, les autorités françaises, qui présidaient alors l'Union, ont présenté plusieurs amendements sur cet article, mais elles n'ont même pas évoqué notre résolution : elles ont tout simplement ignoré la position du Sénat.

Notre résolution demandait également que les définitions européennes de la discrimination directe, de la discrimination indirecte et du harcèlement soient révisées.

Lors de la même réunion du Conseil, la France a soumis aux États membres l'examen de ces définitions, mais les arguments de la résolution ont été passés sous silence : les autorités françaises ont, là encore, complètement ignoré la position du Sénat. (...)

Le mépris systématique de la volonté du législateur me conduit à vous poser une question simple, monsieur le secrétaire d'État.

Si les autorités françaises ne se sentent absolument pas liées par les résolutions que le Parlement leur adresse, si elles n'ont que faire de la volonté du Parlement, sans lequel elles n'ont pourtant aucune légitimité, qu'on le dise clairement ! Qu'il soit dit clairement qu'en matière communautaire le Parlement est une chambre d'enregistrement et que les résolutions européennes qu'il adopte ne servent à rien !

Je le crois profondément, c'est en agissant ainsi, c'est en ignorant totalement les volontés des populations qui s'expriment à travers leurs représentants qu'on éloigne l'Europe des peuples qui la composent, qu'on rend l'Europe impopulaire, qu'on rend l'Europe antidémocratique.

Si des sénateurs membres de tous les groupes politiques sont à l'origine de cette résolution, si celle-ci a fait l'objet d'un consensus quasi unanime, c'est bien parce qu'elle vise, face à une directive d'inspiration ouvertement communautariste, à défendre notre patrimoine commun, notre modèle républicain, selon lequel la lutte contre les discriminations passe par la reconnaissance d'une égalité de tous les hommes, indépendamment de leur origine, de leur sexe ou de leur couleur de peau, et non par la création de communautés auxquelles seraient octroyés des droits particuliers.

La présidence française était une occasion unique de promouvoir, avec ces États membres, auprès de tous nos partenaires européens, une autre manière de lutter contre les discriminations, une manière plus ouverte, plus respectueuse de notre conception républicaine de l'égalité, plus fidèle à l'héritage des Lumières. Cette occasion, les autorités françaises à Bruxelles l'ont gâchée.

Je n'imagine pas que, s'agissant d'un sujet aussi important, à savoir la lutte contre toutes les formes de discrimination, les autorités françaises ne s'engagent pas fermement pour défendre et promouvoir nos valeurs républicaines et méprisent plus longtemps la volonté de leur Parlement . ».

La réponse du Gouvernement a été la suivante :

M. Bruno Le Maire : « J'ai été moi-même parlementaire, et je compte bien le redevenir un jour. Aussi, je suis particulièrement attaché au respect de la volonté du législateur. Comme j'ai déjà eu l'occasion de le dire devant cette assemblée, j'ai de la construction européenne une vision politique et estime que celle-ci doit associer davantage les parlements nationaux aux décisions de l'Union. (...)

En outre, s'agissant des discriminations, vous savez que, si l'on remonte plus loin dans le passé, avant d'être parlementaire, j'ai eu l'occasion de travailler avec le président Jacques Chirac et avec le Premier ministre Dominique de Villepin et que tous trois sommes à l'origine de la création de la Haute autorité de lutte contre les discriminations et pour l'égalité, la HALDE. Aussi , je crois pouvoir dire que c'est un thème sur lequel je suis personnellement mobilisé. En la matière, et ce n'est un mystère pour personne, j'ai toujours adopté une approche républicaine fondée sur l'intérêt général et sur le refus de toute vision communautariste.

Il se trouve que le texte qu'avait proposé la Commission prévoyait cette distinction quelque peu byzantine et, en effet, hasardeuse entre les discriminations dites « directes » et les discriminations dites « indirectes ».

Nous avons essayé de contrebalancer cette approche-là en défendant une vision universaliste de la lutte contre les discriminations de façon à ne pas promouvoir, autant que faire se peut, une telle distinction, qui conduit effectivement à fractionner la citoyenneté en un certain nombre de catégories, de communautés, dont la protection reposerait sur des critères ethniques, religieux ou liés à l'orientation sexuelle. Telle n'est pas ma conception de la lutte contre les discriminations.

Si nous n'avons pas fait assez bien cette fois-ci, nous essaierons de faire mieux la prochaine fois, et de défendre notre approche républicaine. Soyez-en assurés, le Gouvernement prête la plus grande attention aux propositions de l'Assemblée nationale et du Sénat en matière européenne. Nous les défendrons à l'avenir avec plus de vigueur. »

ANNEXE IV

Lettre de Mme Margot Wallström,
vice-présidente de la Commission européenne
à M. Hubert Haenel, président de la commission des affaires européennes du Sénat.




ANNEXE V

Travaux de la commission
des affaires européennes
( session ordinaire octobre 200 8 -juin 2009)

 

I. Travaux de la commission  

•  Réunions tenues par la commission ...................................................................................................

41

(dont 5 en commun avec d'autres commissions du Sénat et 3 en commun avec la commission chargée des affaires européennes de l'Assemblée nationale)

 

•  Auditions organisées par la commission ..........................................................................................

19

dont  auditions de ministres français ...............................................................................................

7

•  Rapports publiés par la commission ..................................................................................................

9


II. Application de l'article 88-4 de la Constitution au Sénat

 

Examen des textes par

•  Procédure écrite (dont textes de nature purement technique examinés selon la procédure simplifiée) ...................................


444

la commission

•  Textes examinés en réunion .......................................................

10

 

•  Textes examinés dans le cadre de la
procédure d'urgence ...................................................................


86

 

•  Pas d'intervention .......................................................................

533

Conclusion de l'examen

•  Lettre à une institution ...............................................................

1

par la commission

•  Adoption de conclusions* ........................................................

1

 

•  Dépôt d'une proposition de résolution
(4 propositions de résolution portent sur des textes émanant d'une institution de l'Union européenne non soumis par le Gouvernement au Parlement) .........................

10

* Les conclusions peuvent porter sur plusieurs textes européens.

 

Propositions de résolutions déposées sur le bureau du Sénat .........................

- dont déposées à la suite de l'examen des textes par la commission ...............................................

- dont déposées indépendamment de cet examen ................................................................................

18

10

8

III. Dialogue avec la Commission européenne sur la subsidiarité et la proportionnalité

 

•  Nombre de réunions consacrées à la subsidiarité et à la proportionnalité ...................................

5

 

•  Textes présentant, après examen, des difficultés .............................................................................

18

Nombre de sujets concernés

10

•  Observations adressées à la Commission européenne ...................................................................

9

•  Réponses de la Commission aux observations ...............................................................................

7

 

(1) The Lisbon Treaty sets out the meaning of these two principles as follows: " Under the principle of subsidiarity, in areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence, the Union shall act only if and in so far as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States, either at central level or at regional and local level, but can rather, by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action, be better achieved at Union level... Under the principle of proportionality, the content and form of Union action shall not exceed what is necessary to achieve the objectives of the Treaties."

(2) When the Treaty of Lisbon comes into force, this version will be amended to take account of the disappearance of the European Community. Henceforth, reference will be made to " drafts or proposals for Acts of the European Union".