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Joint Committee on EU Scrutiny

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Overview of the work of the Joint Committee on EU Scrutiny

The work of the Joint Committee on European Scrutiny is primarily guided by two basic principles:

  • to further scrutinise all EU legislative measures that could have significant implications for Ireland and
  • to undertake this scrutiny as early as possible in the EU legislative process with a view to influencing the Government's negotiation position at European Council level.

The European Union (Scrutiny) Act 2002 lays down the legislative basis for parliamentary scrutiny of EU legislative measures in the Houses of the Oireachtas. Under the Act the Government is legally obliged to lay copies of all EU legislative measures before both Houses of the Oireachtas together with a statement of the Minister outlining the content, purpose and likely implications for Ireland of the proposed measures.

The Houses of the Oireachtas established the Joint Committee on European Scrutiny in October 2007 in recognition of the growing importance of EU legislation and its impact on Irish economy, society and public affairs and of the need for more thorough scrutiny of draft EU law. The Joint Committee fulfils its role within the framework of the Act by carrying out detailed scrutiny of EU legislative measures on behalf of the Parliament and reports on the implications of the measures, setting out its conclusions and any recommendations, to both houses of the Oireachtas. In the last Parliament, scrutiny of EU legislative measures was carried out by a sub-committee of the Joint Committee on European Affairs.

An important feature of the EU Scrutiny system is the power of the Houses of the Oireachtas or a Parliamentary Committee to make recommendations to Ministers in relation to EU measures which, in accordance with the Act, Ministers are legally obliged to take into consideration.

The Joint Committee is also tasked with the important role of monitoring the principle of subsidiarity. The Joint Committee performs this as part of its scrutiny role under the Act and by way of participation in COSAC subsidiarity testing.

Under the Act, Ministers are obliged to make a report to the Houses of the Oireachtas at least twice yearly in relation to EU measures and other EU developments within their area of remit. The Joint Committee considers these reports and under its Orders of Reference can request the attendance of a Department Secretary General to discuss the report. The reports also provide a means of tracking measures which were the subject of a scrutiny report by the Joint Committee.

Inter-parliamentary co-operation plays an important part in the work of the Joint Committee. The Joint Committee maintains close links and exchanges strategic information with its counterpart committees in the other 26 EU national parliaments and with the European Parliament. These committees meet every six months in the member state holding the rotating EU Presidency under the umbrella of COSAC and can remain in close contact and exchange information, ideas and experiences through IPEX (the inter-parliamentary EU information exchange website).