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A semester of rushed trilogues : a look into the pre-electoral European legislative process


The key to compromise for EU legislators is the trilogue : a meeting between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission to negotiate the final version of any legislation. With the upcoming deadline of the European elections, the Belgian presidency has been under unprecedented pressure to finalise many bills as quickly as possible. Cutting corners has its costs and consequences, and the expedited trilogues could risk undoing the balance of power between the three actors of EU legislation.


On the first of January, the Belgian government, who is representing the Council during its presidency, was handed the herculean task of concluding 150 pending legislative files before the final European Parliament plenary session from the 22nd to the 25th of April. Any texts not adopted by this deadline risk being sent back to the starting line with a new parliament and a potential new Commission president with a different agenda.


While no one would argue against the importance of adopting and finalising any work from the last 5 years while the political support is still present, there should be no compromise on the quality of the dialogue. The upcoming Hungarian presidency on the 1st of July 2024 only increases the pressure placed on Belgium as many do not trust Hungary’s political agenda on key European questions.


Unfortunately, questions are being raised about the trilogue procedure which has been hastened to a point nearly beyond recognition. EU legislative procedure is usually criticised for its slow, laboured progress but this new pace is raising questions on the quality of discussions.


One of the biggest debates of this semester centred around the packaging and packaging waste regulation (PPWR), but only two trilogues were held to resolve the differences between the position of the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission. The deadline was so short and the starting point for negotiations so far apart, that the Belgian Presidency had to ask for a revised mandate from the member states.


Perhaps the PPWR should consider itself lucky, other texts didn’t even benefit from a two part trilogue, like the revision of the breakfast directive which was concluded in just one day. In that instance, the Commission departed nearly entirely from its initial proposal to ensure an agreement could be reached.


Historically, the trilogue procedure has always been criticised for its opaqueness. The discussions take place behind closed doors between a select few whose identities are not always disclosed. As we approach the European election, our legislators should take heed to avoid strengthening eurosceptics arguments of the European Union as an impenetrable fortress which imposes rules on EU citizens without their consent. With just a few weeks to go, efficiency is key, but so is well balanced legislation and due process : one should not be traded for the other.


Melissa Amroun from the French agency Kairos Public Affairs wrote this contribution. Contact any of our United Government Affairs network members to analyse the threats and opportunities behind this initiative and engage in policymaking.

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