Tusk’s Six-Pack

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Here’s my 600-word structural summary of Tusk’s 2 February six-document reform package, which comprises in draft:

  1. HOGS decision (15 pages, all aspects)
  2. HOGS statement of intent re a future Council decision on Council acts concerning economic governance
  3. three Commission statements of intent re future actions:
    > new EC subsidiarity-check and burden-reduction mechanisms
    > free movement: amend Regulation 492/2011, by co-decision
    > free movement: amend Directive 2004/38, by co-decision
  4. EUCO conclusions on competitiveness

None of the texts propose treaty change. At a later date however some elements may be reflected in treaty changes.

The draft EUCO conclusions on competitiveness (point 4) will apply immediately on adoption, possibly at this month’s summit, and largely restate existing initiatives. The EC statements similarly can be adopted without delay, probably also this month, so allowing work on subsidiarity checks etc to get started and the two legislative bills to be readied for tabling straight after a positive UK referendum outcome.

The legal texts in points 1 and 2 take effect only after the UK has said it will not quit the EU.

The Council Decision (point 2) provides for contentious proposals affecting economic governance to be further debated by the Council prior to voting in that institution in the usual way. (This is not dissimilar to the existing EU treaty Protocol 9, which under the Lisbon Treaty replaced the historical Luxembourg  and Ioannina compromises. It’s unclear why, other than for cosmetic reasons, such a system needs repeating.)

Turning then to the main HOGS Decision text (point 1) and each of its four headings.

First Section A: Economic Governance. After a preamble, seven principles are elaborated that can read directly. The last refers to Section A’s incorporation into the EU treaties at the next revision, though this for now remains in square brackets. Until such time, the section would be aided in practice by the specific provisions contained the Council Decision (point 2) as discussed above.

Section B. Competitiveness is the shortest. Essential it endorses the EUCO conclusions (point 4) and, also as discussed above, points i.a. to the additional EC-led work re subsidiarity/burdens, which probably will begin immediately irrespective on the UK vote.

Section C: Sovereignty contains one new measure, a so-called ‘red card’ system that would be used suspend new legislative bills in the Council if 55% of national parliaments call for this. This is a high threshold so would be difficult to use. That said, it may turn out to be very useful if it encouraged national parliaments to undertake greater scrutiny and discussion of new EU-level proposals. Section C also contains clarifications on existing Treaty provisions in four areas namely: {1} ever closer union, {2} yellow card mechanism {4} freedom, security and justice provisions and protocols and {5} national security.

Lastly Section D: Social Benefits and Free Movement. After a preamble, there follow three sub-sections: clarification of current EU rules, changes to EU rules, and future accession treaties. Clarification is straight forward, as are future accession treaties where member states have both veto and the possibility to erect temporary derogations. For changes to EU rules, thee amending acts are foreseen, all by co-decision, also starting only after a positive UK referendum outcome. These are:

Draft provisions of these bills including e.g. qualification criteria and duration are not yet available though no doubt the EC is already drafting. For now, the next summit sits in just ten working days.

* HOGS = Heads of government and/or state

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