The European Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs has rejected the judicial confirmation of the new provisions amending the Rules of Procedure justified by the epidemic situation

2020. 10. 12.

The Committee on Constitutional Affairs has voted to amend the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament in light of the COVID-19 crisis. However, at the same time it rejected the proposal of judicial confirmation of the legality of the amendments, as proposed by the Fidesz-KDNP Delegation. The delegation regrets the rejection of its proposals, as this makes it possible to avoid liability for declaring the newly adopted provisions illegal.

Fidesz-KDNP Delegation tabled thirteen amendments to the draft modification to the Rules of Procedure, acknowledging that the new provisions of the Rules of Procedure is essential, as it secures the legality of the functioning of the parliament and its members.

However, the functioning according to the new rules in extraordinary circumstances creates a situation, in which the president of the European Parliament is granted additional rights and certain rules for instance on quorum, participation in debates and voting explicitly affect or even limit the autonomy of Members – leading to the need of additional guarantees to ensure democratic functioning. In the case of many national parliaments, there is some form of legal obligation to initiate judicial review in the event of a change to the rules of procedure, for example in France, this obligation is rooted in the constitution. This is particularly justified in the present case, as the intention of the Member States was not to create a body functioning mainly in digital form.

Therefore the Hungarian delegation proposed in an amendment a mandatory judicial confirmation of the newly adopted provisions. It is unfortunate, however, that the amendment has been declared inadmissible by the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, without any written legal justification, solely on formal grounds, for the purpose of ensuring that liability in case of illegality of the provisions is avoided.

Background: The European Parliament was unprepared for the coronavirus epidemic, and its Rules of Procedure did not contain provisions regarding exceptional circumstances such as provisions on distance voting or legal bases for presidential decisions restricting physical presence, plenary debate and allow for the adoption of health and safety standards necessary to deal with the epidemic situation. Recognizing the problem, the Committee on Constitutional Affairs has drafted amendments to the Rules of Procedure to establish rules regarding extraordinary circumstances.