Power of initiation

It is important that you understand how the European Commission proposes laws. According to the Treaty:


Article 17

  1. 1.       Union legislative acts may only be adopted on the basis of a Commission proposal, except where the Treaties provide otherwise. Other acts shall be adopted on the basis of a Commission proposal where the Treaties so provide.


(Consolidated versions of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, 2010)


I hope you still remember the ordinary legislative procedure that we discussed previously. In the procedure, the Commission proposes new legislation to the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.


What laws does the Commission propose and why?

First of all, the Commission takes the legislative initiative to meet the objectives of the EU treaties. If the policy area is not cited in the Treaties, the Commission cannot propose any laws in that area. Secondly, the Commission proposes laws to meet technical and legal obligations arising from existing laws. Thirdly, the Commission proposes laws as a response to ideas and suggestions from other sources.


What are the other sources of law and how important is their initiative? Please read ‘ The European Union. How does it work?’ by E. Bomberg, J. Peterson and R. Corbett 2011, p.54 , Box 3.1.



The Lisbon Treaty has introduced the European Citizens’ Initiative. Read about it to find out what the initiative is and how it works.




Nevertheless, when proposing laws, the Commission must respect:

  • the principle of subsidiarity: the EU should not take action (except in areas for which it alone is responsible) unless EU action is more effective than action taken at national, regional or local level. The decisions should be taken as closely to the citizens as possible.
  • the principle of proportionality: the involvement of the EU must be limited to what is necessary to achieve the objectives of the Treaties


While preparing the proposal, the Commission:

  • makes consultations
  • assesses the potential economic, social and environmental impact of the proposed legislation