A majority of MEPs and national parliamentarians alike believe the Treaty of Lisbon will enhance the role of national parliaments in EU decision making, it has emerged following discussions on 4-5 December.
Others stressed the vital role of national parliaments in ensuring that the treaty’s reforms are properly implemented in the member states following ratification.
The members of the European and national parliaments were taking part in a joint meeting on the future of Europe in Brussels, ahead of the forthcoming summit between EU leaders on 14 December when the new treaty – the text of which was agreed upon in October – is expected to be signed.
Portuguese Parliament Speaker Jaime Gama told the assembled parliamentarians that “national parliaments are the greatest winners of this new treaty”, while European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering concluded that cooperation between national and European parliaments is “necessary to make the Union work”.
“National parliaments and the European Parliament are not in competition, but share the same objective: to strengthen European democracy”, Pöttering stressed.
Discussions at the meeting were based on three main topics: how wider responsibility for national parliaments can enhance their role in EU affairs, ratification and implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, and improving the efficiency and coherence of the institutional set-up.
Portuguese MP Helder Amaral believes the treaty’s reforms will “boost the EU’s democratic legitimacy”, and proposed promoting better best practice and information exchange between national assemblies “to improve the use of EU money, such as the structural funds”.
Jaime Gama said that the option of ratifying the new treaty in national parliaments or by referendum was “an internal political choice” for each member state, but MEP Jean-Luc Dehaene (EPP-ED, BE) stressed the need for citizens to be “fully involved” regardless of the process chosen.
Portuguese MP Regina Bastos insisted the large majority of national parliamentarians do not think that the Treaty of Lisbon threatens national sovereignty, saying: “It is indisputable that we are better off now and that we are not in a federal state”.
This week’s event was the fourth such gathering, with the first three joint parliamentary meetings on the future of Europe taking place in May and December 2006 as well as June 2007.