Within the European Parliament there are 17 permanent Committees dealing with different subject areas. Each Committee has a number of MEPs who are full members, and others who are ’substitute’ members. There are also a number of temporary Committees which are formed as important matters arise – for example, on Echelon or genetic technology.
When a piece of draft legislation is sent to Parliament from the Commission, it is given to the relevant Committee to deal with. The Committee, by co-ordinating the political groups, allocates one of its members as ‘Rapporteur’. The Rapporteur is responsible for writing a Report on the Commission document on behalf of the Committee. A typical report would consist of a number of amendments, or changes to the text, where the Rapporteur thinks that improvements need to be made.
Normally, one or more other Committees produce an Opinion on the original proposal. For example, the Civil Liberties Committee is responsible for producing the Report on the proposal for a Community Immigration Policy. The Employment and Social Affairs Committee has been asked to write an Opinion on the proposal, in which they will ask the former Committee to include certain points in its report which cover the subject from the employment and social angle.
Once the Rapporteur has produced the report, other Committee members may also submit amendments to the text. The report then goes to vote in the Committee – the Committee votes on whether to accept each submitted amendment into the text, and finally whether to accept the report as a whole. The majority of reports are accepted, and go on to be voted on by the whole Parliament in the plenary session. This is when the whole Parliament meets together to discuss reports, amend them and put them to the vote, thus adopting its position on the matter. Amendments may therefore also be submitted prior to the plenary vote.