National Parliaments and the EU

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

National Parliaments and the EU

Abstract

This paper, published by the

Jean Monnet European Centre of Excellenceat the University of Leeds in April 2002, looks into the role of national parliaments in the development and further integration of the EU.

The paper states that, with few exceptions, they have had a very limited role in reviewing, overseeing, monitoring, controlling or influencing EU legislation. Few have had an influential role in respect of the control of the positions adopted in Council meetings by national Ministers. Some have had a genuinely hostile and obstructive attitude towards MEPs and have been reluctant to share information, resources, premises let alone ideas with them on an on-going basis that would permit them to influence policy outcomes at EU level. Instead, in some states some national parliaments have depicted the EP as a rival for authority and implicitly for the loyalties of the citizens within their states. It has taken years for this situation to be remedied. Even now, there are legacies of unwillingness on the part of national MPs for genuine dialogue and effective ongoing debate with the EP, says the author of the paper, Professor Juliet Lodge.

National parliaments’ influence vis-à-vis the EU – the Commission, the Council and the EP, as well as the Committee of Regions and ECOSOC – remains at best weak. While dialogue is desirable, it is not practicable to add an another layer of ‘talk’ onto the system. National MPs were not especially effective before direct elections, and the dual mandate is cumbersome and a heavy individual burden on MPs, underlines the report.

The paper suggest three possible ways for the national parliaments to play a genuine role vis-à-vis EU level issues directly rather than via the medium of another institution (the EP) or Euro level parties. It does not probe the expansion of the EP’s power (which is inevitable and desirable). It addresses purely the potential role for national parliaments in respect of discrete policy areas under pillar III, links with the EP, and reform and oversight of Euratom:

  1. National parliaments should develop their potential for two-way communication to use, refine and exploit existing procedures in order to have a complementary role in discrete (sensitive) policy areas open to rapid development under pillar III and in respect of European Council ‘instructions’ and major policy initiatives.
  2. National parliaments should engage with their citizens to discern and distill public views which they can present to each other an to EU institutions via the periodic convening of a Think-Tank-Forum of National Parliaments in existing EU buildings (no new institution is prescribed).
  3. National parliaments and the EP should examine the Euratom treaty to enhance democratic accountability for policy priorities and options in respect of nuclear energy and related environmental and public health concerns.

Download the of this paper.  

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe