There is a strong school of thought in Brussels that member states were not fully cognisant of the implications of Articles 290 and 291 when they agreed to the Lisbon Treaty. "We have been told by national officials that they did not have time to read the treaty. It was slipped through. Comitology is not exciting, but it has implications, and like insurance policies, it is the small print that is important," explains one lobbyist.

To such allegations, supporters of the new system maintain the procedures were fully discussed in the Amato working group in the convention, which laid the original foundations for the new treaty. But as one national official admits: "This was a very technical issue and no one appeared to realise the political impact until the implementing regulation was being negotiated and is now being applied."


Irrespective of the amount of attention governments paid to the legal wording of the two articles, there is little doubt that the member states have been ready to flex their muscles and have since aimed to tilt the power balance more in their direction. During the early running-in period of the new procedures when the Commission pushed delegated acts, it found to its surprise, that these were being resisted.

As one insider notes: "In the early days of the new arrangements, it seemed there was no single week when the question of comitology was not discussed in Coreper on a case-by-case basis. There were at least three occasions where all 27 member states said that the measures should not be delegated, prompting the Commission to express its disappointment' at their reaction."

Such discussions are less frequent now. They probably number one a month - a frequency which may reflect the small number of legislative proposals coming through the pipeline or greater familiarity by all concerned on the process and parameters of the new procedures.

Indeed, according to one observer: "Even if the others do not speak, 26 of the 27 member states have the same stance: they prefer implementing measures." The one exception is Belgium, which tends to take the view that it is more important to process the legislation than to wrangle over what can appear to be technical and procedural issues.

At the outset, Denmark, France and the UK took the lead in advocating implementing powers whenever a legislative proposal was debated in the Council of Ministers or Coreper I (deputy permanent representatives).

Denmark's vigour may...

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