This is an important week for the European Parliament’s role in the CAP reform negotiations, which makes it a busy one for us and for lots of other people.
Starting with the European Commission’s proposals, the Parliament and the Council of Ministers eventually have to come up with a version of the new CAP regulations which will command majority support among MEPs, and a “qualified majority” among member states in the Council. Currently both Parliament and Council are at the first reading stage.
In the Parliament, the first reading process begins with an individual MEP on the relevant committee – in this case the agriculture and rural development committee or COMAGRI – being appointed as “rapporteur”. The rapporteur’s job is to listen to the views of the MEPs on the committee, then draft a version of the legislation to put to the committee for approval. The MEPs on the committee can however table amendments to the rapporteur’s texts, which then get voted on in the committee just like votes on amendments in Holyrood or any other Parliament.
When the committee has voted on all the amendments and approved a version of the texts, these are passed to the Parliament as a whole which can either vote them through unchanged or, once again, suggest and vote on amendments, at a so-called “plenary” session. The version of the texts voted through by the plenary is then the official first reading position of the Parliament.
The reason this week is important for the CAP negotiations is that it’s the window in which MEPs on the COMAGRI have the opportunity to table amendments to the rapporteurs’ texts. All over Europe, stakeholder groups and national governments will be putting together lists of suggestions and passing them to MEPs for consideration. As the Scottish Government, we’re doing precisely that, and I’m sure Scottish stakeholder organisations will be doing the same.
Most people in Brussels seem to think there could be a couple of thousand amendments put forward overall. Some poor soul in the COMAGRI secretariat will have the job of collating and making sense of them all. Glad it’s not me!