Like their counterparts of previous promotions, 25 Master students in European Studies (Politics, Law or History & Culture) simulated a role as a Commissioner, a Member of the European Parliament or a Minister within the Council of the EU in order to familiarize themselves with the legislative procedure of the European Union: co-decision. The proposed directive, which has brought about tense debates both in our simulation and in reality, aims to promote the immigration of certain third-country nationals to the EU (COM (2013) 151). Six categories of persons are targeted: researchers, students, pupils, trainees, volunteers and au pairs. Grasping the many issues raised by the text, students mobilized a wide range of means to achieve their goals (they proposed amendments, worked in official and secret alliances, drafted legal opinions etc.), discovering the joys and difficulties of the negotiation process and the intricacies of co-decision in practice. Addressing a particularly thorny issue in times of crisis, the proposal raised tensions throughout the simulation game. Under the leadership of the European Commission, the Council and the Parliament managed however to find an agreement in second reading, through an intense compromise process forged during long reunions, taking sometimes the form of trialogues.
Video by M. Rossi
In the framework of the course, the students had the opportunity to meet and discuss with the actors of the real decision making process. The three institutions involved in co-decision were represented in the panel. Sebastian Stetter, a Policy Officer in the 'Immigration and Integration' Unit of DG Home Affairs of the European Commission opened the debate. He stressed the need to recast the two old directives in the field and highlightened the most polemic provisions in the proposal. Caroline Klamer, who works for Cecilia Wikström (rapporteur of this file in the LIBE committee) explained that, contrary to what usually happens, the LIBE committee decided to adopt its first reading position without seeking first a compromise with the Council, and so because of the upcoming European elections of 2014. The panel was closed by Agnès Rebuffel-Pinault, Counsellor in Justice and Home Affairs at the French Permanent Representation of the Council of the EU, who explained the general negotiation process within that key institution and shared her experience in former negotiations. A very interesting Q&A session followed, where students had the opportunity to put forward the practical questions that came up during their own simulation exercise. Overall, the interaction proved very valuable to all, students as well as professionals.
Moreover, the students were given the opportunity to hold their respective 2nd reading discussions in the buildings of the real institutions: the Parliament and the Commission (unfortunately access to the Council building has been impossible for the first time this year). In the Parliament, the students met the actual rapporteur of the directive, Mrs Wikström (ALDE), who wished them good luck with the difficult negotiations (see the picture gallery). We thank her and the two host institutions for providing students an even more practical insight of the European legislative negotiation process.
In real life, the European Parliament has adopted its 1st reading position. Intense discussions are currently ongoing within the Council (and between the later, the Parliament and the Commission). Once the text is adopted, one should not miss the opportunity to compare the official version with that of the student, which may be more idealistic (see text below, in French).
“Being a law student, I had some concerns about the course. Eventually, I quickly hooked on it and I even discovered in myself hidden talents of formidable politician. I learned negociation techniques and I acquired a particular knowledge of the legislative process that I would never have been able to obtain from books”.
Barbara Catalano (student in the Advanced Master in European Law)