Forget Article 50, Brussels was far more interested in Article 155 this week. The now infamous weapon in Madrid’s arsenal to withdraw the powers of autonomous areas. Whilst Brussels is at strains to not discuss Catalan’s ambiguous declaration of independence in public, it has certainly been the hot topic that people are talking about in the Brussels bars this week.
Quite frankly, it was a dull week in the Brexit negotiations. The lack of leaks on the ground for lobbyists demonstrated that, as expected, there really was little going on behind closed doors and things now rest on the political side of the negotiations at the next council summit.
So, moving on, I will briefly touch on the committee work of the European Parliament this week. Specifically, it was the Transport (TRAN) Committee which provided the most intrigue. Aside from an appearance from the charming John Todt, this was a committee voting week and there were some big votes, or at least, there were supposed to be!
Playing close attention to the ever-evolving relationship between the TRAN Committee and the Environment (ENVI) Committee is one of the best ways to understand the political machinations of the EU Parliament. The interaction between these two parliamentary committees is never serendipitous and accidental; long gone are the days when these committees are filled with political mavericks.
As was the case this week, the two committees often work on reports alongside each other under varying co-competence rules. Both committees are well coordinated and well whipped and this was illustrated in all its legislative glory during this week’s committee votes.
Firstly, the Low-Emissions Mobility vote, which eventually took place after numerous postponements, was only assured its passage through committee after some contentious compromise amendments were agreed. One could see the relief on the faces of many in the room, who knew that with the passing of each compromise amendment the 59-page voting list would be dramatically reduced. The voting list in this case made for interesting reading with many areas of competence being given to the ENVI Committee, and certainly more areas than some factions of TRAN would have appreciated.
Secondly, the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) vote which was pencilled in for a Thursday morning was postponed minutes before it was due to commence. Again, a report which is worked on by both ENVI and TRAN. RED is one of the most important legislative dossiers currently working its way through the EU Parliament and the postponement in TRAN will have fascinating consequences regarding the increased competence of the ENVI Committee’s own vote on RED. The factions within the committee were clearly on show in the debating of whether to postpone the vote as all parties knew the consequence of postponing a vote for the ENVI report.
Whilst there was little on Brexit this week, it was a fascinating committee week which will have far-reaching ramifications for the forthcoming Strasbourg week.