The Directorate liaises between Parliament and the Commission.
This interstitutional task includes covering both plenary sessions of the European Parliament in Strasbourg or Brussels, and meetings of the parliamentary committees and management and political planning bodies (conference of chairmen of Parliament's political groups, conference of chairmen of parliamentary committees, interinstitutional coordination group). Relations between the European Parliament and the Commission are governed by the Framework Agreement [62 KB] concluded by the two institutions in May 2005. The Directorate systematically monitors the work of all the parliamentary committees and part-sessions with the dual aim of reporting to the Commission and the Directorates-General on the content of the debates and ensuring that the Commission is adequately represented.
The positions which the Commission adopts in the plenary session on all matters of concern to it and the necessary administrative coordination are the subject of policy preparation carried out within the Commission through meetings with the cabinets: this work is carried out by the Interinstitutional Relations Group, whose Directorate acts as the secretariat for all matters relating to the European Parliament.
The Directorate also organises the necessary follow-up to the decisions adopted by Parliament, assists the President of the Commission and the Vice-President responsible for relations with Parliament at meetings with Parliament (during plenary sessions, at meetings of the Conference of Presidents or at meetings of parliamentary committees) and ensures that the Commission is represented on the groups which plan parliamentary work.
In addition, all the written questions put by Members of Parliament are registered and centralised in the Directorate before being allocated to the various Directorates-General and departments concerned. The Directorate ensures that answers are given within the time-limit set and that they are coherently and properly drafted. It ensures the necessary coordination between departments and at cabinet level with a view to preparing the positions to be defended by the Commission during Question Time.
The Directorate has the specific task of managing the complaints sent to the European Commission by the Ombudsman on cases of alleged maladministration and petitions sent by the European Parliament.
The internal procedure was defined in a Commission decision of 5 October 2005 (SEC(2005-1227/4): each Commissioner is empowered to answer complaints concerning his or her area of responsibility on behalf of and under the authority of the Commission. The Directorate is required to send complaints to the Commissioner responsible and must then, together with the Legal Service and, where appropriate, the Budget DG, give its consent, under the authority of the President and Vice-President responsible for relations with the Ombudsman. The Commission deals with all the complaints received and endeavours to implement the Ombudsman's recommendations and his proposals that an amicable agreement be reached.
In accordance with Article 194 of the Treaty, the European Parliament receives petitions from members of the public. Most of the admissible petitions are sent to the Commission so that replies can be sent to the public or problems involving failure to comply with Community law can be resolved. In some cases, a petition can lead to infringement proceedings being launched against a Member State. The petitions sent by the European Parliament are received by the Directorate, which forwards them to the various Directorate-Generals and ensures that appropriate action is taken, both during the written stage and at meetings of the Parliament's Committee on Petitions.
The Directorate is responsible for relations with the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the Committee of the Regions (CoR). These advisory committees, each of which comprises 317 members, assist the Council and the Commission in drafting Community legislation (see Article 7 of the EC Treaty). They are consulted by the Council or the Commission in the cases provided for in the Treaty (compulsory consultation) or when one of these institutions wishes to ask their opinion (optional consultation); they may also issue opinions on their own initiative (see Articles 260-265 of the EC Treaty). In accordance with the cooperation protocols with the EESC [45 KB] and the CoR [63 KB] , which were signed in November 2005, the Commission may send the Committees special requests for consultation which are more detailed (outlook opinions for the CoR and exploratory opinions for the EESC); the Vice-President responsible for relations with the Committees sends the Committees the request for these opinions.
Each year, on the basis of the Commission's work programme, the Directorate draws up the plans for consulting the Committees and discusses them with the Committees. The new protocols refer to joint planning measures. The Directorate systematically monitors the work of both committees: plenary sessions and meetings of the Bureau, while meetings of the sections (EESC) and commissions (CoR) are monitored by the Directorates-General responsible for each opinion. It ensures that the Commission is properly represented and briefs Commission Members and departments of the discussions in the Committees. Lastly, on the basis of contributions provided by Commission departments, it draws up periodic reports informing the Committees of action taken on their opinions. The tracking form is produced every quarter in the case of the EESC and every six months in the case of the CoR. The new cooperation protocols make provision for specific measures for informing the Committees about action taken in response to particularly important opinions.
The Directorate is also responsible for relations with the national Parliaments of the Member States. It fosters contacts with COSAC (Conference of Community and European Affairs Committees of Parliaments of the European Union) and the Conference of Speakers of the EU Parliaments. It cultivates close links with the existing networks of permanent representatives and liaison officers of the national Parliaments, including IPEX, the electronic platform for the exchange of data and information between national Parliaments.
The Directorate is also responsible for the overall coordination of the "political dialogue" between the Commission and national Parliaments, which was launched in 2006 with a view to improving the process of policy formulation and to bringing the EU closer to its citizens. In the context of this dialogue, the Commission sends its new proposals and consultation papers to national Parliaments for them to give input (Commission Communication "A Citizens' Agenda - Delivering Results for Europe" (2006)) and replies to national Parliaments' respective opinions and comments.
The Lisbon Treaty represents a major advance as regards the role of national Parliaments at EU level. It states explicitly that "national Parliaments contribute actively to the good functioning of the Union". Featuring most prominently among national Parliaments’ new rights is their responsibility to "ensure compliance with the principle of subsidiarity". The "subsidiarity control mechanism" (also known as the "yellow and orange card procedure") is set out in Protocol 2 of the Treaty and involves the possibility for the legislator to stop the ordinary legislative procedure, if a given number of national Parliaments questions compliance with the subsidiarity principle of a particular legislative proposal. The Directorate is responsible for the follow-up of this new mechanism.
The Directorate publishes the opinions received from national Parliaments in the context of the political dialogue and the subsidiarity control mechanism as well as the Commission's replies.
For more information on the different institutions, please consult the websites of the European Parliament, European Ombudsman, European Economic and Social Committee, Committee of the Regions, COSAC and IPEX.