How to better apply the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality within the EU? Insights from the work of the Task Force established by Juncker in November 2017

A Task Force on Subsidiarity, Proportionality and ‘Doing Less More Efficiently’ was established by the European Commission President Juncker in November 2017. Juncker asked the Task Force to look at 3 issues: (1) the role of local and regional authorities in policymaking and implementation of European Union policies; (2) the role of subsidiarity and proportionality in the work of the Union’s institutions and bodies; (3) whether responsibility for particular policies areas should be re-delegated to the Member States.

Photo credits: European Commission

On 10th July 2018 the Task Force, chaired by First Vice-President Timmermans, handed over its final report to Juncker. The Task Force concluded that a new way of working on subsidiarity and proportionality is needed to allow local and regional authorities and national Parliaments to make a more effective contribution to EU policymaking and in the design of new legislation. The proposed new approach would see subsidiarity and proportionality being assessed more consistently by all levels of government, on the basis of a “model grid” – comparable to a subsidiarity and proportionality checklist.

The Task Force also recommended applying flexibly the 8 weeks deadline for national Parliaments to submit their opinions on draft EU legislation, and raised the possibility of a future increase of the time available for submitting an opinion to 12 weeks. Lastly, the Task Force recommended that the three EU institutions agree on a focused multi-annual programme that would promote a rebalancing of the EU’s work in some policy areas towards more effective implementation of existing legislation and away from initiating new legislation.

Photo credits: European Commission

The Austrian Presidency of the EU will organise a conference on subsidiarity in Bregenz in November, which will provide an opportunity to further discuss the Task Force report and consider how to take forward its recommendations, in the light of the State of the Union Address of 12 September 2018. In March 2019 the European summit of cities and regions will offer a further opportunity to discuss the Task Force recommendations.

(Fabrizio Di Mascio)