From Brussels Think Tank Dialogue session 1: legitimacy, parliaments, the Council

Just a few notes from this session, with links to additional resources.

The well-referenced background paper dealt mainly with the role of national parliaments and their growing difficulty in exercising control over national and EU executives, taking stock of what some have termed ‘de-parliamentarization‘. Recently, the role taken by the European Council in the crisis, the tendency to adopt inter-governmental agreements outside the EU framework, and the creation of Euro Summits have raised awareness of the complexities of the EU’s ‘dual legitimacy’.

After reviewing more or less feasible options, from a revised ‘early warning‘ mechanism to a third chamber for the euro area, the paper notes that

Considering that the Council is one of the EU´s two legislative bodies, the most straightforward way for  national parliaments to have a say in European policymaking would actually be to scrutinise and shape their governments’ positions before they head off to meetings in Brussels.

Equally importantly

Similarly, national parliaments can best help to raise public awareness and interest in European affairs by politicising EU issues at ‘home’.

Panelists and discussants touched on a much wider range of issues related to legitimacy of EU institutions in general, from low voter turnout to the consensual functioning of the European Parliament, which in turn makes public engament less likely, to the openness of Council meetings. Of interest for all of us dealing with information management, several speakers noted that effective democratic control largely depends on timely flows of information  – see the IPEX mechanism for example.

A recent research project dealing specifically with national parliaments in the EU was the Observatory of national parliaments after Lisbon – OPAL. It will lead to an Handbook on National Parliaments and the EU to be published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2014.


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