Luns-Westerterp procedure

The Luns-Westerterp procedure was an informal arrangement whereby the European Parliament was kept informed, by the rotating presidency of the EC Council of Ministers, of progress in the negotiation of international agreements with third countries or international organisations. The procedure was introduced in 1964, on the initiative of the Dutch foreign minister, Joseph Luns, then president-in-office of the Council, so that the Parliament could routinely discuss any proposed association agreement before negotiations started, be kept informed of detailed progress in those negotiations, and be briefed on the their outcome, before the final agreement was signed. This dialogue initially operated at committee level only and was underpinned by respect for the confidentiality of negotiating positions, when necessary. The so-called ‘Luns procedure’ was extended in 1973, at the initiative of another Dutch president-in-office of the Council, Tjerk Westerterp, to trade agreements, where (unlike association agreements) the Parliament had no right of formal consultation. Ten years later, in the Stuttgart Declaration, the European Council (of EC heads of government) agreed to further extend what was by then known as the ‘Luns-Westerterp procedure’ to ‘all significant international agreements concluded by the Communities’, including cooperation agreements and treaties for the accession of new member states. In practice, the degree to which the Parliament actually sought and received active, up-to-date, briefing varied greatly, depending on the political sensitivities of each negotiation and the prevailing mood in the parliamentary committee parliamentary committee concerned.

The European Parliament’s position was greatly strengthened by the introduction, through the 1986 Single European Act (SEA), of a new assent procedure, now known as the consent procedure, which gave it a right of veto over both association agreements and accession treaties. Subsequently, its assent power was widened by the 1992 Maastricht Treaty to cover certain other important international agreements. The Lisbon Treaty now ensures that nearly all agreements – including most trade and cooperation agreements, but excluding those in the field of Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) – are subject to the Parliament’s consent. It also states that the Parliament ‘shall be immediately and fully informed at all stages’ of the negotiating procedure (Article 218(10) TFEU), whether or not its consent is required. As a result of successive treaty changes, the Parliament is now in a position to block virtually any non-CFSP agreement of which it disapproves, and the Council and Commission are finally under a formal obligation to keep it informed in a way that Luns-Westerterp previously implied. See also Common Commercial Policy (CCP).

September 2012

Copyright: Anthony Teasdale, 2012

Citation: The Penguin Companion to European Union (2012), additional website entry


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