Foto: Son Tung
On 2 September 2021, the Providus think tank and the Latvian Civic Alliance, with the support of the European Parliament, held a consultation with members of the European Parliament (EP) on the views of Latvian NGOs and civic activists on the forthcoming European Union initiatives. Here we have summarised the most important recommendations of deputies and parliamentary assistants in defending the interests of Latvian NGOs both in regard to these initiatives and in all other cases when the European Union begins work on a new regulation:
1. How to spot new initiatives?
Organisations have the opportunity to notice the European Commission’s intentions at an early stage in the “Have your say” portal. It is also possible to comment on them during all stages of development: from a rough roadmap to a ready-made draft regulation or directive. At the same time, it cannot be expected that the need will be resolved with comments in this process. The European Commission draws up a special report on the proposals received, but in the form of a summary.
2. Where can I get advice on what is going on with a regulation or directive that is in its initiate stage?
If there is a great deal of interest in the future course of the proposed initiative or the development process before the European Commission has announced a draft regulation or directive, then it is best to ask the Latvian ministry attachés working on the issue in the Latvian mission in Brussels. This is because the European Commission closely involves the Member States, and therefore these attachés, in the process of drafting new regulations or directives. It is not yet worth addressing MEPs at this stage.
At the same time, it is possible that the European Parliament came forward with its position before (or in parallel with) the European Commission’s work on a particular legislative proposal. For example, before the European Commission came up with the Digital Package, the European Parliament had a number of own-initiative reports on these issues – a number of resolutions. The opinion of the European Parliament is not binding, but at the same time it is an important political signal.
3. How do you know WHEN a new initiative is expected?T
To better anticipate when the European Commission will come up with a specific initiative, it has two resources: The “Have your say” consultation portal (but this is approximate – it speaks of quarters, not specific dates) and the European Commission’s register of documents (search by keyword on the agenda of the European Commission’s College). It shall be understood that these dates can also be postponed, especially if they concern politically sensitive issues.
4. Well, the European Commission has announced a new draft regulation or directive. What’s next?
Once the European Commission has launched an initiative, it will soon reach the European Parliament. It is important to understand which committees of the European Parliament it has reached and which MEPs have been appointed as rapporteurs and also as shadow rapporteurs. This information can be found on the EP’s website.
5. And if the Latvian members of the European Parliament are not in the required committees?
If the Latvian MEPs do not work in the relevant committees, everything is not lost yet, because they have the opportunity to contact their colleagues from other countries on issues important to Latvia: for example, with colleagues in their own political group working in the relevant committees, or even with colleagues in other political groups in other committees or working groups (for example, the issue of transparency of political advertising is also relevant in the Special Committee on Foreign Intervention, which will not formally participate in the drafting of the legislation itself).
6. What methods of advocacy make sense?
Organising various events (for example seminars, conferences) online or in the EP’s premises is less important in defending interests; of much more importance, is whether the NGO is able to propose a specific amendment to the Member and the parliamentary assistant. It shall be understood that MEPs are working on many, technically complex issues, so it will be appreciated that someone has already made preparations. This is not the case if several Members from different committees submit the same proposals, which are prompted by legitimate public organisations. It is also possible to call the Member responsible for the matter shamelessly without giving up, but there shall be a line between valuable information and annoyance.
7. Proposals submitted. And then?
It should be noted that when proposals for amendments to a draft regulation or directive are submitted, the subsequent conciliation process is quite non-transparent – it is good if someone helps the NGO, (for example, a parliamentary assistant involved in conciliation) by reporting on progress and showing conciliation documents.
8. And if it’s not a directive or a regulation, it’s “communication”?
If the European Commission intends to announce “communication” rather than a draft regulation or directive, the European Parliament will be involved here too. The European Parliament may, in response to an EC communication, draw up its own (own-initiative) report, the writing of which will be delegated to a specific committee and Member. Consequently, the process will not be much different from the conciliation of the draft regulation/directive.
9. Is it possible for Latvian NGOs to do all of this?
Defending interests at the EU level is much easier for organisations that are already represented in Brussels and have experience. Therefore, Latvian NGOs should, as far as possible, be involved in European-level organisations.
10. Isn’t there an easier way?
It should also be remembered that the Latvian government will prepare national positions on draft regulations and directives. It is much easier for NGOs to get involved here: they have to find which ministry is closest to the issue, then they have to find an employee who develops the national position and offer the proposals. The national position can also be influenced at the government level (they are approved by the government) and in the European Affairs Committee of the Saeima – it is important not to miss the time when meetings are held on this.
Latvian NGOs want to check how the recommendations of the deputies work both because the four issues discussed at the seminar are also important for the Latvian society and in order to gain experience in influencing interests at the EU level, therefore the following actions will be taken: 1) will wait for the European Commission to announce the relevant initiatives; 2) at least two of these initiatives will seek to cross all pathways in 2021-2022.
10 tips in printable poster format are available here.
The event took place within the framework of the European Union-funded project “Preparing for the Conference on the Future of Europe”. This publication reflects the views of the author only, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.