European Law Monitor

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How do I get a proposal blocked in the European Parliament?

Pan-European co-operation is essential to get a proposal rejected by the European Parliament

If you believe that a proposal is fundamentally flawed, and even with amendments will not be workable, then you will probably be seeking to have it rejected by the European Parliament. This article aims to explain how you can plan to achieve that.

It is important to remember that getting a piece of legislation blocked or withdrawn is more an issue of organisation and pan-European co-operation than anything else.   It's essential with the current makeup of the European Parliament to build alliances with your counterparts in other European countries, as the MEPs of any single country do not have enough weight to block a proposal.   Attempting a single nation approach to blocking a proposal is doomed to failure.

If this sounds a bit intimidating, you should remember that if you have concerns on a particular issue, there is a very good chance that organisations and businesses similar to yours in other countries share the same concerns, and therefore are likely to want to cooperate with you in making representations to the European Parliament.

It is also a realistic objective, as many proposals are blocked by the European Parliament, so if you have genuine and substantive concerns about a piece of legislation, you do have a realistic opportunity to stop it progressing, but only if you can organise an appropriate consensus across Europe.

The first stage of the Parliamentary process is the committee stage, and before a proposal is discussed at the Parliament plenary session, it is first passed to the relevant committee of MEPs who discuss it, gather views, and prepare a report for the Parliament. The detail of what goes on at this level can actually be found in our article "The Co-decision Procedure" which is listed under the "Legislative Procedures" section of the website.

As the committees are relatively small compared to the plenary session, influencing the committees is often the most effective way of making your voice heard, particularly if you adopt the pan-European approach outlined in this article, even at this level.

However, at some stage the proposal is likely to pass from the committee stage to the plenary, where it will be voted on. To get a proposal rejected or withdrawn at this particular point requires an understanding of the voting procedure, and a coordinated approach.

Once the proposal comes up for discussion at the plenary, the rapporteur will present the committee report and recommendation, in which they will put forward any draft amendments and a draft legislative resolution. Having presented the committee report, the MEPS at the plenary session will

  • vote on the text as a whole, amended, or otherwise,
  • vote on the motion for a resolution/draft legislative resolution as a whole (the final vote)

The draft legislative resolution is the document that, if granted, gives the proposal the European Parliaments seal of approval, which has the effect of passing the proposal up to the next stage of the decision making process. However, if it is not granted, and a Commission proposal fails to secure a majority of the votes cast, it is passed back to the Commission by the President of the Parliament who will ask the commission to withdraw the proposal.

If you want to get a proposal rejected, then you must convince a majority of the MEPS attending the session to vote against it. The right for MEPs to vote is a personal right which means that they cast their votes individually and in person. If they are Members of a party, which most of them are, then they are likely to hold similar views on particular issues, but they are not allowed to be forced to keep to a party line. So if you can convince individual MEPs that your arguments regarding a particular proposal are valid, then they would be free to support you in getting a proposal amended or rejected.

How many MEPS would you need to convince?

There are 736 MEPs in total. The quorum to make a vote valid is one third of the total, i.e. 245 MEPs. Therefore in an easiest case scenario you would need to convince 123 of them or more that a proposal was fundamentally flawed. However, in reality, more than a third of MEPs usually turn up to the plenary session, so if you wished to err on the side of caution you would probably need to presume that the plenary was in full session and all the MEPs were present. If that were the case, you would need to convince 369 MEPs or more that a proposal should be rejected.

From 2009-2013 each country has the following number of MEPS.

Belgium   22
Cyprus   6
Czech Republic   22
Denmark   13
Germany   99
Greece   22
Spain   50
Estonia   6
France   72
Hungary   22
Ireland   12
Italy   72
Latvia   8
Lithuania   12
Luxembourg   6
Malta   5
Netherlands   25
Austria   17
Poland   50
Portugal   22
Slovakia   13
Slovenia   7
Finland   13
Sweden   18
United Kingdom   72
TOTAL   736

You should first of all draft a paper detailing your objections to the proposal.   The UK Cabinet Office Regulatory Impact Unit has a website devoted to regulatory impact assessments, which is an extremely useful source of information (not just for UK-based organisations and businesses). The site covers in detail what information is considered when assessing a proposal, and this forms a good basis for the necessary range of factors you will need to cover in your arguments.   The Cabinet Office web address is

Once you´ve prepared your own regulatory impact assessment i.e. you´ve worked out how it is going to affect you, your members, or your business, and if you´ve decided that you want to try and get the proposal rejected outright, then you should start to contact similar organisations to yours in other EU countries, ideally in every EU country. You may find it useful to read the articles under the "How do I?" section of the website, which give tips on what to think about when building alliances.

If you look at the above list of MEPS you will see no one country is dominant. So the only way you are going to have a proposal rejected is to build as many alliances as you can across Europe. You can use the forums on our website as a central debating/coordinating point for that purpose, in fact that is one of the reasons they are there.

Bear in mind that whilst big countries individually have more MEPs, you cannot ignore the smaller countries because in total they carry just under half of the votes available.

Once you become aware that the proposal you are concerned about is due to be discussed and voted on at the plenary, you would then contact all the organisations across the EU that you had built alliances with, and get them to contact their national MEPs with your alliance´s objections, with a view to getting the necessary 369 MEPs voting against. You will need to make a proper case to the MEPs and convince them that they should vote against it.   You can get the MEPs contact details from our site.

It would then be voted on at the plenary session. If a Commission proposal fails to secure a majority of the votes cast, the President of the European Parliament will contact the Commission and ask them to withdraw the proposal. If the Commission does so then the proposal is formally rejected, and the legislative procedure stops there.