In the process from Idea to Draft, a document undergoes multiple steps, the main ones being outlined on this page.
Inter-service consultation occurs within the European Commission at every step of the adoption of a legislative measure, i.e. before a draft legislation is official put forward by the Commission (as it is always proposed by all the Commissioners as a College, even if obviously the Commissioner in charge of the specific issue addressed by the legislative measure will lead the dossier), but also at later stages if the Commission amends its proposal for example in the framework of a Co-decision procedure.
At draft stage, inter-service consultation is initiated by the lead department when a proposal has reached a sufficiently advanced stage within the service, possibly with other services which have been involved from the outset. For example, in the case of Directives relating to the regulation of electronic communications, both the Information Society and Media Directorate-General and the Competition Directorate-General are involved.
When a dossier is complex or sensitive, lead departments often first have informal contacts with the other services that could be affected, either though interdepartmental meetings or bilateral contacts.
Not all the other DGs must be consulted:
The lead department must send its draft document and request the formal opinion of all the directorates-general and services that have a legitimate interest in the content of a proposal, taking into account the often conflicting objectives of transparency and efficiency.
The Legal Services must always be consulted, while the Secretariat-General and the Personnel and Administration DG, Budget DG and OLAF have to be consulted where they are specifically affected.
Time limit for reaction:
Inter-service consultations can go quickly as the minimum initial time limit is 10 or 15 working days, the latter applying for any document longer than 20 pages (annexes excluded). The lead department may however decide to accept replies that have been submitted late.
Possible reactions of other services during Inter-service consultation:
5 options are available to the consulted services individually:
- No observations;
- Approval subject to comments or amendments being taken into account;
- Unfavourable opinion (which is quite drastic);
- Suspended opinion, which must be duly substantiated as it freezes the process for technical reasons, such as insufficient time or lack of essential information.
End of Inter-service consultation:
Once the consultation period is ended, the lead department must revise the text, trying to take into consideration the comments received. If it considers it cannot do so, it must inform the services that have submitted comments in writing about the comments that have been disregarded and the justification for it.
If the redrafted text is substantially different from the initial proposal, the consultation must be re-launched or extended by a minimum of three working days, and all the services concerned must be duly informed.
In case of dispute between the lead department and a consulted department, the Secretariat-General can be asked to intervene as an arbitrator.
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