EU Convention recommends more powers for national parliaments

National parliaments should have more say in EU lawmaking, according to the conclusions of the European Convention’s Working Group on the Principle of Subsidiarity, adopted on 19 September.

The Working Group on the Principle of Subsidiarity, chaired by Spanish MEP Inigo Mendez de Vigo, is in favour of shifting the balance of power in the EU towards the national parliaments.

This will please Britain, France and Spain who demand more powers for the national parliaments and governments at the expense of common EU bodies.

The subsidiarity working group proposes that national deputies could reject laws proposed by the Commission if they believed the issues could be better dealt with at a national level.

The working group also called for an “early warning system” with which national parliaments would ensure that the Commission is not transgressing its mandate. The group proposes that the Commission should send proposed laws to national parliaments who would decide whether the issue should be dealt with at the EU or national level. The European Court of Justice could be asked to arbitrate in case of disagreement.

Another Working Group of the Convention, dealing with the role of national parliaments, has endorsed this plan.


The Conference of Community and European Affairs Committees (COSAC)has called for more powers for the national parliaments in a working paper for its next meeting in Copenhagen on 16-18 October 2002. Some of COSAC's main proposals:

  • the role of the national parliaments in EU politics is to be enhanced
  • EU law-making procedures and deadlines must allow the possibility for the democratic integration of EU politics into the national parliaments
  • COSAC is to be reformed into a Forum of Parliaments, which will be tasked with:
    • enhancing the role of the national parliaments in EU politics
    • enhancing parliamentary co-operation between the national and European parliamentarians
    • ensuring contacts and co-operation with EU institutions.

The British Governmentwas the first to propose a "subsidiarity watchdog" to monitor the Commission and rule whether decisions should be taken by the EU or national governments. Such a body would be made up of one member of parliament from each of the 15 EU Member States. It would meet six times a year, and would act to prevent any initiative by the Commission or the Council of Ministers to give more power to the EU.


In December 2001, EU leaders set up a Convention to prepare a reform of EU policies and institutions so that the Union can enlarge to new Member States.

The role of national parliaments is one of the main topics, discussed by the Convention, and there is a Convention working group dealing with this issue.


The issue of subsidiarity will be discussed at the next plenary session of the Convention on 3-4 October.

The Convention President, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, pledged to table the draft proposal for a future EU Constitutional Treaty by November 2002. His objective is to have the final proposal ready for the EU Summit in mid-2003.

The Convention will be followed by an Intergovernmental Conference in 2003 or 2004 to decide on the revision of the treaties.



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