European Union 2011: The Sisyphus task of regulating the irrelevant (by Janka Jakabos, WMBA05)
In this essay I would like to make a short presentation of the absurdities of the EU institutions, without making the rigorous analyses of all these institutions but presented from the standpoint of a EU citizen, and a little bit with the eyes of an insider, being able to have an access to the daily life of the European Parliament.
The European Commission has been working for more than 6 years on a proposal for "Protection of chickens kept for meat production" Proposal for a directive (COM(2005)0221 – C6-0190/2005 – 2005/0099(CNS)). The goal of improving the welfare of the animals, is the center idea of this proposal, that according to the European Commission should be achieved through the maximization of stocking density. According to the proposal Article 3, paragraph 2: "The Member States shall ensure that the stocking density of chickens per square meter of useable area ('stocking density') in establishments or single units of an establishment does not exceed 25 kilograms liveweight."
What is interesting in this proposal are not the details and not even the fact whether this is important at the European level or not. In this short study I do not want to question the fact that animal welfare is really important, but what I would like to emphasize is more that cost/benefit ratio of a law on the presented issue.
First, we must be acquainted with the procedure of making law "a la Europe." Thus we can imagine how many people work on such a proposal and how many working hours are used on what rate. Of course all these ideas about the general costs are just assumptions, but most probably even though they would be impressive, considering the effect of such a law on the everyday life of the EU citizens, the sponsors of these acts.
The Commission drafts proposals for new European laws and manages the day-to-day business of implementing EU policies and allocating EU funds. It also makes sure that everyone abides by the European treaties and laws. The Commission is divided into several departments and services. The departments are known as Directorates-General (DGs).
In our case, the Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development -with a staff of about 1000 and led by Director-General José Manuel SILVA RODRIGUEZ - is responsible for implementation of agriculture and rural development policy, the latter being managed in conjunction with the other DGs which deal with structural policies.
The next step is the transmission of the drafts to the committees of the European Parliament, in our case the AGRI (Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development) that in special cases for important issues form working groups as well, or just meet in the committees and discuss the proposals, issue amendments and vote on them.
The European Parliament has the right to reject proposals and send them back for correction. This small detail is also important because it reminds me of something that we call "parallel work." Do you think that there is a efficient working relation between the Commission and the European Parliament's Committees, if the amendments are made on the very basic topics like the economic impact, the benefit and protection of the EU citizens?
The best examples are the following amendments:
"For three reasons the Commission proposal should be rejected:
1. It is therefore hypocrite to make a proposal for additional animal welfare rules in the European Union, as this will be counterproductive for the goal of improving the welfare of the animals. Additional rules will increase the cost of production and as import products do not have to meet these standards, domestic producers will not be able to compete with producers abroad, which do not have to respect our standards. Animal husbandry will move to third countries, where there is no regulation on animal welfare at all, hence resulting in a net decrease of animal welfare.
2. The Commission has not yet produced a proper social-economic impact assessment on their proposal. It is impossible to decide on a directive, before this has been produced.
3. The proposal by the Commission is based on means prescriptions, in stead of goal prescriptions. A maximum stocking density does not guarantee a good level of animal welfare. Moreover, big climatic differences throughout the EU make a maximum stocking density an even more unreliable tool for guaranteeing good animal welfare."
(Amendment by Albert Jan Maat, Béla Glattfelder, Mairead McGuinness, Niels Busk)
So what are the three main reasons for why the authors of the amendment argue for rejection of the draft directive: No protection for EU citizens, no socio-economic base and no realistic prospect of enhancement of animal welfare. It becomes obvious that the Commission’s work was isolated and that even the basic ideas behind the proposals were not agreed upon with the EP. Doesn’t this sounds like work in vain? But even if it is not in vain, even if the work just needs to be completed, corrected and the idea of offering better life for chicken kept for meat production will make our lives better, I still wonder that these don’t smell like self-legitimization? I am not an anti-EU person, but what is evident for an outsider to the Commission and an insider of the EP is that priorities, work procedures and funds should be rethought and recalculated based on of real problems that are not only artificially created in the EU bubble in Brussels in order to keep busy the 12.000-person-strong apparatus.
What I would emphasize at the end of the day is the absurdity of harmonization criteria: Europe legislates too much on too many secondary issues, creating unnecessary uniformity, creating a bureaucratic blockage, while in the same time fails in creating a common opinion and strategy on long term and real problems. Europe must create its own system of justice if it wants to assume its exemplarity, if it wants to be a model of civilization.
I would like to close my essay with a funny regulation that was adopted in 1994 in order to have standards on banana quality. This means there are minimum diameters laid down to determine what a “European” banana is. But the goods news is that cucumbers do not have to be straight to be cucumbers.
REPORT on the proposal for a Council directive laying down minimum rules for the protection of chickens kept for meat production (COM(2005)0221 – C6‑0190/2005 – 2005/0099(CNS)), Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development
The budget of the EP,http://www.europarl.europa.eu/parliament/public/staticDisplay.do?language=EN&id=153
15.12.2005 PE 365.101v01 AMENDMENTS 33-143 Draft report (PE 360.272v01)
Thijs Berman, Protection of chickens kept for meat production
Proposal for a directive (COM(2005)0221 – C6-0190/2005 – 2005/0099(CNS))
23 May 2013, 18:00Mirjam Simpson-Logonder
25 May 2013, 12:00Miao Tan
26 May 2013, 13:00Miao Tan