Proposed changes to EU voting rules for approving products such as Genetically Modified (GM) crops and pesticides are aimed at making Member States more responsible for their actions. Under current rules, many Member States abstain from voting, particularly on politically sensitive topics.
This increases the likelihood of ‘no opinion’ outcomes, delays and shifting responsibility for such decisions to the Commission.
The new proposals being considered include classifying those who abstain or who are absent at the Appeal Committee vote (2nd stage of the voting process) being classified as ‘non-participating Member States’. Such countries will be subsequently discounted when the double majority of votes (55% of Member States representing 65% of the population) is calculated.
Other proposals include making public Member States’ voting patterns and the introduction of a ‘quorum provision’ which would mean that a vote would be invalid if a simple majority of Member States did not participate in the Appeal Committee vote. In addition, where an initial vote results in a ‘no opinion’, a second referral to the Appeal Committee would take place and Member States would be represented at Ministerial level. There is also a proposal to have the right to refer the matter to Council to obtain a non-binding opinion, in a bid to give the Commission a political steer.
These proposals are unlikely to be popular amongst several Member States which have been content to permit the Commission to be criticised for authorising sensitive products. However, such reforms are necessary, especially if the EU is serious about being more accountable to its citizens. Having unelected bureaucrats making contentious decisions is an abdication of responsibility and has contributed to the increasing ‘disconnect’ that voters feel regarding the EU.
Some may feel that such proposals will not have much relevance to the UK as it prepares for Brexit. However, EU regulation will remain important in the next two years and beyond. The Great Repeal Bill will transpose whatever EU regulation is in place upon formal Brexit directly into the UK statute and may not be amended for some time. Therefore, decisions such as whether glyphosate is reauthorized will continue to play a central role in UK arable farming.