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Procedures for Scrutiny of EU Documents

Scrutiny of EU law-making in the Sejm - since 13 February 2011

1. Introductory remarks

The scrutiny of EU law-making by the Sejm has been regulated in two documents:

  • Act of 8 October 2010 on the cooperation of the Council of Ministers with the Sejm and the Senate in matters relating to the Republic of Poland's membership of the European Union (Dziennik Ustaw of 2010, No 213, item 1395) that entered into force on 13 February 2011 (Cooperation Act), and
  • The Standing Orders of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland.

According to the Standing Orders of the Sejm, the competent body for scrutinising draft legal acts and other EU documents is the European Union Affairs Committee (Committee, SUE). It is one of Sejm's permanent committees appointed for the duration of the term of office of the Sejm. The Committee's composition of up to 46 Deputies proportionally reflects the representation of Sejm Deputies' clubs and agreements made up of at least 15 Deputies.

Certain questions concerning the powers of national parliaments, set forth by the Lisbon Treaty and pertaining EU law-making, are in the competences of the plenary Sejm. They include:

  • resolution concerning a reasoned opinion on non-compliance of the EU draft legislative act with the principle of subsidiarity,
  • resolutions on oppositions referred to in Article 48 (7) of the TEU and Article 81 (3) of the TFEU,
  • statutes granting consent for decisions of the President of the Republic concerning positions of the Republic of Poland on certain draft legal acts mentioned in Articles 14 and 15 of the Cooperation Act

(complete information – see "The Sejm and the European Union")

We present the procedure for scrutiny of draft legal acts (and other EU documents) by the EU Affairs Committee, pointing out its role in preparing the above mentioned decisions adopted by the plenary Sejm. Only in the case of statutes granting consent for decisions of the President of the Republic of Poland the Standing Orders of the Sejm don't provide for any special role for the SUE.

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2. Preparatory work

2.1. Sifting of documents

Draft EU legal acts and other EU documents sent to the Sejm are entered once a week into one of two lists:

  • list A that covers documents to which comments are not submitted;
  • list B that covers documents that should undergo a discussion.

The lists, prepared by the Bureau of Research, are passed on to all members of the European Union Affairs Committee with a request to submit their comments. Next, both lists for the given week with comments and suggestions from the Committee members and the staff of the EU Unit are sent to the members of the Presidium of the SUE.

2.2. Decisions of the Presidium of the EU Affairs Committee

The Presidium of the SUE agrees during its meeting (Friday mornings) on the following:

  • the final content of lists A and B from the given week;
  • the list of Deputy-rapporteurs for drafts included in the list B (one rapporteurs for each draft act);
  • dates of Committee meetings during which the said documents are to be considered.

In the case of draft EU legal acts other than legislative acts or those adopted under Article 352 (1) of the TFEU, and for other EU documents in list B, the SUE Presidium submits to the Government a request for its position (positions on draft legislative acts and acts under Article 352 (1) of the TFEU are sent ex officio pursuant to the Cooperation Act). For all EU documents from the list B, the Bureau of Research prepares legal and substantive analyses.

3. Procedure in the EU Affairs Committee

3.1. Scrutiny at the onset of the legislative process (Article 7 (4), Article 8 (2) of the Cooperation Act)

During the meeting of the European Union Affairs Committee, the Government orally presents its position on the draft act on which it had presented its position in writing (ex officio or upon a motion). If Committee members put forward any comments to the EU document or the Government position thereon, the Committee may adopt an opinion.

3.2. Scrutiny during the course of EU law-making (Article 10 (2) of the Cooperation Act)

The Council of Ministers provides the European Union Affairs Committee with information in writing on the progress of procedures and positions taken in the framework of such procedures. The Committee may express its opinion on the positions of the Republic of Poland.

3.3. Scrutiny before the Council's or the European Council's meeting (Articles 11 (1), 12 (1) and (2) of the Cooperation Act)

Prior to considering in the Council a draft legislative act or a draft act adopted under Article 352 (1) of the TFUE or the matters listed in Article 12 (1) of the Cooperation Act, or prior to the presentation of a position of the Republic of Poland in the European Council on a draft legal act referred to in Article 86 (4) of the TFUE, the Council of Ministers is obliged to seek the opinion of the European Union Affairs Committee. The Council of Ministers submits information in writing and the competent representative of the Government presents the position during a Committee meeting. The Council of Ministers can take a position without asking the Committee's opinion due to the organisation of work of EU bodies, with the exception of matters that are decided unanimously or entail a considerable burden to the state budget. In such case, the Government representative must immediately present the position to the Committee and explain the reasons behind not soliciting an opinion.

3.4. Effects of EU Affairs Committee's opinions (Articles 8 (3) and 13 (2) of the Cooperation Act)

Pursuant to the Cooperation Act, opinions of the Sejm European Union Affairs Committee should constitute the basis for the position of the Republic of Poland at every stage of the procedure. If the opinion is not taken into account, a member or a representative of the Council of Ministers is required to immediately explain the reasons for such discrepancy to the SUE.

4. Examination of compliance with the principle of subsidiarity (Article 148cc of the Standing Orders of the Sejm)

The Government appends information on compliance with the principle of subsidiarity to draft positions on draft EU legislative acts and acts adopted under Article 352(1) of the TFEU. If the European Union Affairs Committee decides that the draft act breaches the principle of subsidiarity, it adopts an opinion.

On the initiative of the Committee (or a group of at least 15 Deputies) the Sejm adopts a resolution on non-compliance of the given EU draft legislative act with the principle of subsidiarity. The first reading takes place at the Committee meeting. The resolution of the Sejm, containing the reasoned opinion, is sent by the Marshal of the Sejm to presidents of the European Commission, European Parliament, and the Council.

5. Resolutions on the opposition referred to in Article 48 (7) of the TEU and Article 81 (3) of the TFEU (Articles 148ca and 148cb of the Standing Orders of the Sejm)

The Committee has been accorded a right of initiative for a resolution on opposition vested in the Sejm under the Lisbon Treaty. The SUE after having considered:

  • initiative of the European Council for changing the voting rules referred to in Article 48 (7) of the TEU or
  • proposal from the Commission on measures of family law with cross-border implications referred to in Article 81(3) of the TFEU,

may submit a draft resolution concerning opposition on draft decision of the European Council or the proposal from the Commission. The first reading of such draft resolution takes place during the plenary sitting. In the case the resolution is adopted by the Sejm, the Marshal of the Sejm notifies the opposition to the appropriate body of the European Union.

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