The subsidiarity principle is intended to ensure that decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen and that constant checks are made as to whether action at Community level is justified in the light of the possibilities available at national, regional or local level. Specifically, it is the principle whereby the Union does not take action (except in the areas which fall within its exclusive competence) unless it is more effective than action taken at national, regional or local level. It is closely bound up with the principles of proportionality and necessity, which require that any action by the Union should not go beyond what is necessary to achieve the objectives of the Treaty.
The Edinburgh European Council of December 1992 defined the basic principles underlying subsidiarity and laid down guidelines for interpreting Article 5 (former Article 3b), which enshrines subsidiarity in the EU Treaty. Its conclusions were set out in a declaration that still serves as the cornerstone of the subsidiarity principle.
The Treaty of Amsterdam has taken up the overall approach that follows from this declaration in a Protocol on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality annexed to the EC Treaty. Two of the things this Protocol introduces are the systematic analysis of the impact of legislative proposals on the principle of subsidiarity and the use, where possible, of less binding Community measures.
Each year the European Commission produces a report ("Better lawmaking") for the European Council and the European Parliament, which is devoted mainly to the application of the subsidiarity principle.
The Convention on institutional reform established by the Laeken Declaration in December 2001 is preparing, through its Working Group on "Subsidiarity", proposals with a view to taking more account of this principle without detracting from the aim of legislative simplification. It is suggesting the setting up of a political monitoring system (via an early warning system for national parliaments allowing them to deliver a reasoned opinion on a Commission proposal) or a judicial control system (creation of a subsidiarity chamber within the Court of Justice in order to strengthen ex post monitoring). The possibility of abolishing the Protocol on subsidiarity and replacing it by a number of articles in the new treaty has also been raised.
Committee of the Regions (CoR)
Delimitation of competences
Simplification of legislation
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The "subsidiarity principle" means that EU decisions must be taken as closely as possible to the citizen. In other words, the Union does not take action (except on matters for which it alone is responsible) unless EU action is more effective than action taken at national, regional or local level. Summit Meetings of the European Council are sometimes referred to as European (or EU) "summit" meetings, because they bring together the EU's heads of state or government. Some countries are represented by their Prime Minister, others by their President, some by both. It depends on their Constitution.
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