In an interetsing paper presented at the Agricultural Economics Society conference at Warwick University last week, Alan Greer and Tom Hind explored the possible impact of the introduction of the co-decision on CAP decision-making and reform prospects. They proceeded by setting out four scenarios:
Scenario 1 The 'conventional' view (often put forward in the media) in which the EP gains power at the expense of other institutions (assuming that there are significant points of difference).
There are two limiting factors on the ability of the EP to exercise power. First, as the lead committee ComAGRI has had very limited experience of co-decision and it has to develop positions that can command majority support across the Parliament. If its views are too close to those of the agricultural community (and the committee is more agriculturally focused than in the past), it could be challenged in the plenary, especially on environmental issues. Second, the Parliament has limited resources relative to the other institutions: the total staff of ComAGRI is around 15, plus three seconded researchers.
Scenario 2 The Council-EP axis in which the Council of Agriculture Ministers will use its expertise to work in close partnership with the EP to shape the legislation proposed by the Commission, weakening the latter. This depends on member states being able to work closely with national MEPs and the presenters argued (rightly in my view) that this scenario was not likely to develop in the next few years.
Scenario 3 The Commission-centric scenario in which the EP's resource void is filled by the Commission. The Commission would use its expertise and resources to work with the EP, using ithe role of arbitrator to facilitate agreement between the EP against the Council in order to shape the final outcome more closely to its preferences. The paper authors thought that this was the most likely scenario. The Commission had increased its displacement as a result of enlargement.
Scenario 4 'Co-indecision'. Co-decision might actually make decision-making more difficult. An average co-decision dossier takes 36 months to process. Some participants in the audience thought that this was the most likely scenario.
If that is the case, it does not bode well for reform. But any of the scenarios is likely to make the reform process more complex, slower and less radical.