The mechanical, electrical, electronic, metalworking and metal industries are one of the mainstays of the European economy. They consist of tens of thousands of companies and provide millions of jobs. They are also directly affected by a raft of EU legislation and regulation covering subjects as diverse as chemicals, eco design, waste, machinery and imported goods from third countries.

Adrian Harris, the Director General of Orgalime, the European Engineering Industries Association, which speaks with EU authorities on behalf of 34 national trade federations, views the new comitology procedures with caution.

He notes that the Commission prefers delegated acts "since it gives it almost absolute power in certain areas, subject to post adoption controls" adding that while Orgalime is in regular contact with Commission officials, there is no legal obligation on the part of the EU institution to consult outside interests.

"Commission consultations with stakeholders are very inconsistent. Sometimes they are very good. Sometimes they just send the documents. Some consultations occur very early, some very late. It can even vary within directorates-general and in practice depends on the individual official," he says.


While some formal committees exist to manage ongoing issues, Harris fears that if budgetary pressures arise, these could be cut following adoption of delegated acts. He notes that the implementing measures in the current Eco Design legislation, for instance, establish a consultative forum, which works as an effective channel for different stakeholders to put forward their points of view.

He also raises the possibility of consultation being increasingly concentrated in Brussels, possibly accompanied by a tendency for the Commission to focus on organisations it finances in certain areas such as standardisation. This, he explains, would weaken the possibility for Orgalime's members to consult first with their own national constituencies and so inject the grass roots' views of their companies into the process.

However, Harris acknowledges that improvements have been introduced. He points to the increase in consultation organised by the Commission's Secretariat General and welcomes the fact that impact assessments, which are already a feature of legislative proposals, are improving and will in future be extended to legislation after it has been adopted.

Trade is one area where Orgalime is paying particular attention to the...

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