When does comitology apply?
Comitology applies when the Commission has been granted implementing powers in the text of a law. The same law also stipulates that the Commission is to be assisted by a committee when defining the measures contained in the resulting implementing act.
Comitology is not compulsory for all implementing acts – some of which the Commission can adopt without consulting a committee (for example, when allocating grants under a certain amount).
How does comitology work?
When the Commission adopts implementing acts, 1 of the following procedures applies:
- examination procedure – used particularly for (i) measures with general scope and (ii) measures with a potentially significant impact (in areas such as taxation or agricultural policy)
- advisory procedure – generally used for all other implementing acts.
Both procedures require that a committee composed of representatives from all EU countries provide a formal opinion, usually in the form of a vote, on the Commission's proposed measures.
Depending on the procedure, committee opinions can be more or less binding on the Commission.
- if a qualified majority (55% of EU countries representing at least 65% of the total EU population) votes in favour of the proposed implementing act, the Commission must adopt it
- if a qualified majority votes against the proposed act, the Commission may not adopt it
- if there is no qualified majority either for or against the proposed act, the Commission can either adopt it or submit a new, amended version.
- the Commission decides on its own whether to adopt the proposed act, but must 'take the utmost account' of the committee's opinion before deciding
How do committees work?
Comitology committees are set up by the legislator (Council and European Parliament or Council alone). They include 1 representative from every EU country and are chaired by a Commission official.
Each committee decides its operating procedures, based on standard committee rules of procedure.
Commission departments submit draft implementing acts to the responsible committees for an opinion.
Most committees meet several times a year in Commission premises (usually in Brussels).
Before each meeting, the Commission sends national authorities the invitation, agenda and draft implementing act. After the meeting, the Commission publishes the voting results and the summary record of the meeting in the comitology register.
The Commission publishes an annual report on the work of the comitology committees, which details their activities in each policy sector.
If the Commission is prevented from adopting a proposed implementing act (particularly where the comitology committee voted against it), it can refer the case to the appeal committee.
The appeal committee functions in a similar way to the other comitology committees: it is made up of EU countries' representatives but at a higher level of representation. It is chaired by the Commission and follows the same voting rules.
It gives EU countries the opportunity to have a second discussion.
If the appeal committee rules against the Commission's proposed implementing act, the Commission must abide by its decision.
Scrutiny by EU Council and Parliament
In addition to EU member countries through the comitology committees, the Commission's implementing powers are also subject to supplementary checks by the European Parliament and EU Council, which have a:
- right of information – all proposed Commission actions discussed in the committees are simultaneously disclosed to Parliament and Council.
- right of scrutiny – where Commission actions relate to a legislative act passed by the ordinary legislative procedure, Parliament and/or Council can object to the proposed implementing act if it exceeds the Commission's powers defined in the initial act. The Commission is then obliged to review its proposed act in the light of this input and decide whether to maintain, amend or withdraw it.
The comitology register contains a list of all comitology committees, as well as background information and documents relating to the work of each committee.