The Lisbon Treaty: Explanation of the early warning mechanism
VOTING IN THE NATIONAL PARLIAMENTS | YELLOW CARD PROCEDURE | ORANGE CARD PROCEDURE
The Protocol on the Application of the Principles of Subsidiarity and Proportionality (Protocol No 2) introduces a procedure known as the 'early warning system'.
The aim of the Protocol is to prevent the European Union from interfering in areas that are beyond its exclusive competence and remain within the competence of the Member States. Any national parliament may, after being submitted a legislative proposal, send a reasoned opinion stating the reasons it considers that the draft in question does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity.
Reasoned opinions need to be issued within the eight-week deadline. This is the period that must elapse from the day the legislative proposal in official EU languages is made available to the parliaments to the day when the proposal is placed on the provisional agenda of legislative institutions. In monitoring the application of the principle of subsidiarity by the national parliaments, the orange and yellow card procedures are applied.
Voting in the national parliaments: two votes by parliament
In the examination of legislative proposals, the national parliaments are allocated votes. Each national parliament has two votes – in the case of bicameral systems, each of the two chambers has one vote. Currently, the national parliaments of the EU Member States have 54 votes altogether.
Yellow card procedure: the proposer decides whether to maintain, amend or withdraw the act
If the reasoned opinions represent at least a third of the votes (currently 18 of the 54 votes) allocated to national parliaments, the legislative proposal must be reviewed. The threshold is a quarter of the votes cast (currently 14 votes) in the case of legislative proposals in the field of freedom, security and justice. Following a re-examination, the proposer may decide to maintain, amend or withdraw the legislative proposal. Reasons for such decision need to be provided. This procedure is called the 'yellow card procedure'.
Orange card procedure: obligatory review of the proposal
If in the case of proposals falling under the ordinary legislative procedure, the reasoned opinions on the non-compliance with the principle of subsidiarity represent at least a simple majority of the votes (currently 28 votes) allocated to national parliaments, the proposal must be reviewed. Following the review, the Commission or other institution proposing the act decides whether to maintain, amend or withdraw the proposal.
If the proposer chooses to maintain its proposal, a special procedure is in place. It has to justify its position by means of reasoned opinion, explaining how the principle of subsidiarity was taken into consideration. The reasoned opinion of the proposer, together with the reasoned opinions of the national parliaments, are transmitted to the legislative institutions: the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament. Thus, both institutions decide whether to proceed with the legislative procedure or not.
If, by a majority of 55% of the members of the Council or a majority of the votes cast in the European Parliament, the legislature considers the proposal incompatible with the subsidiarity principle, the proposal will not receive further consideration. This procedure is called the 'orange card procedure'.