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Editor’s blog: When no decision is the European Commission’s best friend

There was a time when the only Treaty text a Brussels diplomat needed to know covered the rules on forming a blocking minority. That’s because governments seeking to play the EU game can do little else in today’s Union of 28 than get together to sink a European Commission proposal, writes Justin Stares.

Since November 1, new decision-making rules are in force that change the equation so that blocking minorities must compromise at least four Member States representing 35% of the EU population. The maths is now a little trickier, and someone really does need to devise an app for these overstressed Council reps, many of whom probably no longer have any idea if they are on the right side of the vote.

More importantly however is this expression that it increasingly common in the European Commission: “the committee has no opinion”. It refers to the comitology committees, not the Council of Ministers, where much of the technical heavy-lifting is now done (out of the public eye, bien sur).

In the olden days, a blocking minority would spell the end of a commission proposal, but not any more. In these committees, a blocking minority is now defined as “no opinion”, giving the commission the right to take its proposal to the appeals committee, where the rules are turned on their head.

At appeal (no journalist has ever witnessed this committee in action) the commission can do what it wants i.e. ram through its proposal, unless national governments can muster a MAJORITY against the law, rather than just a blocking minority.

A blocking minority, and therefore no decision, is therefore no longer a problem for the Brussels executive.

These changes were actually introduced by the Lisbon Treaty but only now is the Brussels bubble coming to terms with what this really means – a huge concentration of power in the commission’s hands.

Transparency of decision-making, needless to say, is totally absent. Just try finding out which way a member state voted in one of these committees, or who, indeed, represented the member state.

If you are a national government (or, arguably, the public at large) the Lisbon Treaty is now looking like a major stitch-up. The commission has won, again.

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