60 Ideas for Europe

WHAT? The debate on democratic deficit seems to neglect the potential that the EU already has and that is the national parliaments of its Member States. They should be understood as part of a broader EU constitutional order and be better involved in EU affairs irrespective of the outcome of the Lisbon Treaty ratification process.

WHY? National parliaments have the most direct electoral tie with the European citizens. Despite direct elections for the European Parliament and the strengthening of its position, it remains weak in terms of providing the EU’s most important institutions (notably the Commission and the Council) with legitimacy and accountability.

HOW? I do not expect the UK House of Commons or the French Assemblée Nationale to stop their national activities or to act completely coherently towards EU issues, but if their ministers within the Council can decide every day about what will become law in their own and all the other EU Member States without almost any responsibility, then it seems plausible to understand them as part of the EU apparatus. Why not voice their opinions more openly in the EU decision-making process? Why not call the Council to account as an EU institution? Why not call the Commission to account? Why not create its access to the European Court of Justice via the government, if need be?

To sum up, democracy need not stem only from the European Parliament and if citizens hear more from their parliament – then let their voice be heard!

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Comments

  1. National Parliaments have been rubbish at using the powers they already have granted to them.

    Apart from the Finnish and Danish parliaments none of the other 25 Parliaments hold national Ministers to account properly before they go off to Council meetings to negotiate. Most National Parliaments cannot even be bothered to look at most EU legislation.

    Once National Parliaments get their act together to use the powers they already have then I might be willing to discuss the proposals further, but until then it’s a non-starter.

  2. The passivity and inactivity of national parliaments is exactly the rationale for my idea to put joint effort to show them that their potential is actually not used enough. It is not only a matter of holding their own minister to account, but also e.g. the Commissioners which could occasionally give a report on the forthcoming proposals to a national parliament (an example of such practice is Barroso’s visit to the Assemblée Nationale). It should not be understood as a duty but more as a self-awareness for the safeguarding of the EU citizens’s interests.

    Furthermore, when citizens vote in national parliamentary elections, their vote goes not only to the internal activities of their parliament, but also to their European activities such as: implementation of directives, ratification of Treaties (such as the Lisbon Treaty), accountability of ministers, etc.

    Thus, although the parliaments’ activities are indeed very different, the time is ripe to press the switch and get more involved in EU decision making, not because they have to but because they realize it is for the sake of their electorate.

  3. According to Davor`s article, i think that Parliament has been linked to weak policy in desicion making process because it`s time to the joint of all institutions, the voice of citizens and an implementation of new ideas in EU Apparatus. This article and this position will renovate some desicions that are debated in Parliament.

  4. I think you should browse the news about the parliamentary debates on the Lisbon Treaty, say, in Britain or in Poland. It is not true that ministers can say and ratify whatever they want in the Council. In my country, the Lisbon Treaty got an almost unanimous vote in the Parliament, which is not very surprising, because the previous Constitution was also approved by an all-party decision, so it would have been a bit funny if they sat a few days debating it. But if Hungarian politicians have a problem with European affairs, you can be sure that they raise it in our national assembly. I don’t think that European issues are so far away from the national parliaments.

  5. I agree that ministers in the Council are not held responsible for the law made in the EU. National parliaments dont use the most direct electoral tie with the European citizens. The ministers represent their own opinion in law-creating procedures, instead of the opinion of the european citizens, represented through the national parliament. So the ministers find out later that european citizens don’t agree. The treaty for the European Constitution is an excellent example.

  6. This idea makes a lot of sense to me. The European Parliament acts in close cooperation with the Council and only occasionally has the real power to show its teeth. If the national parliaments started to debate EU issues I would also be more interested to follow what’s going on in Brussels. If they don’t let us vote in a referendum, then at least our parliamentarians should take it into their hands. It’s not only about the ministers’ responsibility or ratification of a Treaty. The parliaments should also turn more to what they have to transpose in the end: the every day decision-making process which completely escapes any scrutiny!

  7. Well-thought but the issue is actually whether the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council would agree to cooperate. The EP currently promotes the “cooperation” and “complementarity” approach to national parliaments, but let’s see if they really mean it…

    Perhaps it’s time to reorganize the EU and break away from the old concept in which citizens vote for the EP but never again hear from it. I think national parliament would fit very well in this sense.

  8. yo creo que es una buena estrategia el utilizar la fuerza de las instituciones actual con el objetivo de lograr una unificacion material en cuanto a las leyes y politicas europeas, estoy de acuerdo que el parlamento europeo todavia no tiene esa fuerza y es un tema de gran importancia, que d ser tratado lo mas pronto posible.

  9. This trend seems to be the idea since the Maastricht Treaty. Now we see that national parliaments are slowly incorporated in the EU by the Lisbon Treaty, however incremental this development is. Apparently the governments realized that European citizens do not support the EU which does not take account of their views. This could be a good solution to the current democratic volatility in the EU.

  10. I totally agree that national parliaments have constantly been bypassed by the government and that their role should be strengthened. Although I do think that the European Parliament is an important institution of the EU, I cannot see it as a true counterbalance to the Council and the Commission, at least at this moment of European integration. Even the Lisbon Treaty does not bring substantial step forward in terms of appointment of the Commission President who is and, I am convinced, will remain to be chosen by the European Council. In spite of the fact that my parliament did not give the mandate to him, I would love to hear how Mr Barroso would address my parliament if invited to give a report. That would be a very welcome development!

  11. The national parliaments indeed have the closest link with the citizenry. The European Parliament elections is about the first and the last contact with the European citizen. It is an interesting point to enrich the EU with more direct links with the parliaments. The fact that some parliaments are more interested in EU matters than others is inevitable in a bloc of 27 Member States.

    In my view, national parliaments could play an indispensable role in bridging the communication gap between the EU machinery and European citizens.

  12. Closer inclusion of the national parliaments in the EU decision making process will certainly strengthen legitimacy and improve accountability towards European citizens. In light of the changes envisaged in the Lisbon Treaty, this is certainly an issue that deserves further attention.

  13. I fully support this idea. It’s a much better approach to the EU than many other proposals.
    I feel our Belgian parliament would benefit as well from being more connected to the EU level.

  14. You’re absolutely right. Everyone should think the same way you do, then Europe will be a unity where all the people of Europe will participate!!

  15. O parlamento português nunca esteve muito interessado nos assuntos da União Europeia, mas é de se observar que depois da Presidência portuguesa e da conclusão do Tratado de Lisboa, a Assembleia da República começou a perceber o verdadeiro papel de colocar os assuntos europeus ao alcançe dos seus cidadãos.

  16. C’est une excellente idée qui permettra de renforcer les liens entre le parlement français et les institutions européennes.

  17. I agree that the national parliaments should be involved more actively in the EU decision making process in order to achieve legitimacy.

  18. This idea is not viable. First of all, it violates principles of equality. The European Parliament exists in part because the different national parliaments in the EU’s member states do not all possess the same levels of authority. Furthermore, since fractions in the EP group together on the basis of ideology rather than nationality, the EP represents the European peoples as a whole. National parliaments do not.
    Secondly, handing national parliaments a bigger say in European affairs will not persuade the electorate of the member states to attach more value to European issues as they consider who to vote for. Topics such as the national economy, immigration, taxes and more will continue to form the basis for voter preferences in national elections and outweigh any objectionable ideals a party holds regarding the future of the EU. If a party’s policy ideas regarding what citizens consider to be important topics such as immigration or the economy are favorable, those citizens will not change their vote solely because that party cherishes ideas regarding the EU that they disagree with. That means national parliaments elected predominantly on the premise of national issues will implement a Europe-policy that voters may not necessarily support.

    The European Parliament was created in part to bypass that problem and yet you are suggesting to bring it back solely on the basis of disappointing voter turnouts for European elections and a (popularly) perceived “democratic deficit”. The European Parliamentary elections are the ideal opportunity for European citizens to voice their preferred ideology for the European Union and thus signal what they would prefer the EU to evolve into. The fact the majority of EU citizens do not consider European elections important enough to vote for is indeed a problem but it cannot be fixed by accommodating the citizens’ lack of interest and knowledge by bypassing the European Parliament and handing some of its authority to national parliaments that were specifically elected to deal with very different issues. The solution lies in explaining to the people of Europe why they should bother voting for the EP.

    That would, of course, require a significant change in attitude on a national level. Currently, national governments prefer their peoples’ indifference towards Europe because it makes it easier for them to blame ‘Europe’ for their own failing policy. Handing national parliaments more authority and, effectively, semi-veto power on European affairs will only inspire an increase in such behavior on a national level as dominating parties in national parliaments (or large opposition parties) take initiatives to block European legislation on the premise of protecting national culture and society from Big Bad Europe in order to score points among the electorate of their country.

    Bypassing or sidelining the EP for the sake of national parliaments also stimulates an evolution of the European Union towards a confederate model. Confederacies, however, never last. History tells us confederacies either dissolve or evolve into federations. Therefore such a move would contradict the EU’s motto of “ever closer union”.

    If you enjoy watching nationalist movements erode the European integration process then by all means, carry out your suggestion. But I would dare wager my relative fortune on an impending dissolution of what would soon be known as that failed historic experiment called the European Union.

  19. Erik, I can see that you misunderstood the whole idea, so let me shed some more light on it. The case for the national parliaments in the European Union is not at any rate a negative one. On the contrary, the idea is that national parliaments play a positive role as a very suitable forum for discussion of EU matters due to their attachment to the electorate.

    The principle of equality that you refer to is not a principle of the EU – the leading wisdom is rather “united in diversity” – diversity of its Member States, diversity of its peoples, diversity of its cultures, diversity of its languages, diversity of its governments and also diversity of its parliaments and its authorities and this is not a problem per se. I do think that the European Parliament is a very important EU institution and I would like to see it better equipped with legitimacy tools, but it simply is not the situation at this stage of European integration, which does not mean that this might not happen in the future and that it might not be desirable.

    This turns me to the second point. Namely, for the European Parliament to be able to play the role that you advertise and that I also would wish to see happening – and that is the role of a real, independent, full-blown parliament capable of politically controlling the Commission for example – we need the genuinely European political parties. You refer to the grouping of according to ideology, but this is not entirely so. They are drawn on a national basis from national parliaments. If you visit the website of the EP at the “Your MEP” page you will see that a vast majority of MEPs are members of national political parties or are at the very least associated to it. This means that they are still firmly attached to their national political environment. And this would not be a problem, if the EP acted completely independently, but they do not. In my recent talk to the EP officials, I was told that the EP in an overwhelming number of cases simply approves what their ministers decide in the Council. The decisions are increasingly passed at first reading with no debate. Why? Because in the end they all meet at home and wish no conflict. It is impossible and not desirable to separate the EU into two distinct entities: “European level” and “national level”. There is one European Union as an overarching entity with its component elements and in this constellation the national parliaments indeed play an important part and they should continue to do so for the sake of providing more space for the citizens to hear from Europe.

    Thirdly, the point is not to “persuade” the electorate but to bring the topics into the peoples’ minds in the first place. Why not use this parliamentary link to bring EU affairs closer to them and let the electorate choose the European options according to the political debate that goes on both in the EP and the national parliaments? The issue of “national economy” that you mention is not as national as you think. The European common market legislation (regulations and directives) regulates most of the “national economy” and it is quite often directly applicable. What citizens and economics operators have to do is follow such regulations. If national parliaments merely voiced their opinion about legislative proposals to the Commission (even without any binding consequence) and occasionally invited it to present its policies that might change the whole picture. The idea is to provide another legitimacy and accountability channel for the EU and not to create veto or semi-veto powers. My perception of national parliaments is EU-friendly.

    I agree with you that European elections are an ideal opportunity for European citizens to voice their preferred ideology, but how will they create their opinion without a Europe-wide political debate in which different options and views are offered to the electorate? This part is currently missing in the EU. What the national parliaments might do is spark this kind of debate together with the EP. Therefore, for the time being there are no political engines in the EU which would explain to the citizens why bother to vote and this is where national parliaments might jump in.

    The issue of federalism and confederalism are not part of this idea, since they are not related to it. Such a drastic move would firstly require a heavy political decision by the governments in an intergovernmental setting, which is something that national parliaments have no access to. What I suggested is more down-to-earth and refers to increased self-awareness of national parliaments in bringing Europe closer to the citizens and thus strengthening the strings of the EU towards an “ever closer union” in which there is a sense of friendly cooperation between European and national institutions for the benefit of all European citizens.

  20. “The idea is that national parliaments play a positive role as a very suitable forum for discussion of EU matters due to their attachment to the electorate.”

    This is too abstract. Do you mean to stimulate debate? Or does this involve any increased authority and jurisdiction? In case of the former; why would you assume people would take notice of a session of their national parliament in which Europe is debated? After all, it won’t lead to anything concrete, will it? So why would I care? In case of the latter; how would you increase authority of national parliaments without risking massive dissolution of European unity?

    “Increased self awareness”?

    What does that translate to in practice?

    Either you give national parliaments more authority in European affairs or you don’t. Your suggestion might embody a benign ideal but it’s not even remotely practical. By that I mean it lacks concrete suggestions and actions. What legislation would we implement to bring about this change? There has to be something concrete, or else it’s just philosophizing. In which case it’s not really an “Idea for Europe” at all, it’s just babbling.

    Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate babbling philosophy. In a pub.

  21. Our current Parliament in Hungary has invoked the national budget in the past 22 month 1733 times, the European Council 242 times, the European Parliament 628 times and the European Commission 775 times. I think it is a mistaken belief that Europe is far away from the national parliaments.

  22. I appreciate the development of the discussion. Let me further explain the role that could be accorded to the national parliaments in the EU.

    Although I already pointed out above in my short idea description how European democracy could be corroborated through national parliamentary involvement, I will give some concrete examples for the sake of completeness.

    Firstly, national parliaments in most cases receive information about envisaged EU legislation from their governments. In this way, they can scrutinize only what the government wants to be scrutinized. The national parliaments should engage in a direct dialogue with the EU institutions (primarily the Commission, the EP and the Council) to obtain information about incoming legislation. This process is informally going on in respect of the subsidiarity principle and this is already a welcome novelty and the Commission has shown willingness to enter into direct communication with the parliaments which establishes a new important channel for legitimacy input by the national parliaments.

    Secondly, in terms of accountability the national parliaments should hold their ministers to account not only in their capacity of a ‘national minister’ but also in their capacity as ‘Council members’. This would provide an accountability channel which could contribute to the current situation of unaccountability of the Council of Ministers. This could be done by posing questions to the minister in plenary not only about what he or she achieved in Brussels as a national representative (which certainly will remain in terms of any intergovernmental negotiation) but also, for example, why the Council did or did not adopt a certain act.

    Thirdly, national parliamentarians could invite more often EU officials for debates on the most controversial EU dossiers. For instance, this has already happened in France, but also in the Netherlands and it was not only a chat, but involved lively debate on burning EU issues.

    Fourthly, they can amend their own rules of procedure to allow for EU officials to be present in the deliberations (in plenary or committees). They can pass legislation or amend constitutions to oblige the government to submit their action to the European Court of Justice. This was done in France in February, for example. Germany also passed a similar law. Possibilities are numerous, but I reiterate that it depends on the national parliaments themselves to realize that acting in this way is beneficial for European democracy and also on the cooperation by the EU institutions. The Commission has already undertaken positive steps in this respect by establishing a direct dialogue on subsidiarity principle with the national parliaments. But does the Commission understand this as a long-term process? How can it be streamlined? These are the questions that only the Commission representatives can give.

    These examples do not require much effort and any specific new powers for the parliaments. Thus, parliaments could very effectively stimulate the European debate. National parliaments get much more media coverage than the EU institutions (which is regrettable) and this is one of the reasons why I assume that people would take notice of a session of their national parliament in which Europe is debated. There is something very concrete in it and that is the opportunity of an incremental creation of the European public which is a necessary element for the transformation of the EU into a full-blown political community.

    I hope to have properly addressed your remarks and I welcome any further discussion.

  23. In the UK there is an intensive scrutiny by the House of Commons and especially by the House of Lords whose reports are carefully read in Brussels and very often taken into account by the Commission when drafting legislative proposals. Although it is not an elected body, the authority and undisputed expertise that they possess are, in my view, inextricable elements of democracy not only in the UK, but also in the whole of the EU. I am very much in favour of this idea and I hope that this process of scrutiny will continue.

  24. I think you hit the nail pretty much on the head by saying “let their voice be heard”. The whole issue revolves around this critical point considering the last move by the head of a German political party to challenge constitutionality of Lisbon Treaty in terms of Grundgesetz. If those voices are channelled through national parliaments towards EU’s own institutions, then the so-called “irreconcilable tension” between sovereignty and legitimacy would, to a certain extent, fade off. I would definitely like to hear more on this, because 60 thousand dollars question remains to be “how”?

  25. Wonderful idea!

    I’ve never actually thought of national parliaments in this way. They certainly are national institutions and the view that they only have a national role to play is perfectly fine, but I can’t see any harm in national parliaments acting in a slightly different way towards European institutions. If I understood this idea correctly, no substantial new powers would have to be granted to them by the Treaties. Even if the EU institutions wouldn’t listen to the opinions of national parliaments, I think there is much added value to include European issues in the national political debate. In that way, Europe wouldn’t be such an alien thing as it is now!

    I greatly support the idea of more transparency and democracy in European decision making and if it could even partly be achieved through national parliaments, I’d like to give it green light. And I think it could be achieved, because ministers indeed act within the Council in a different capacity than when they return to their national office. And that’s where I see national parliaments involved, although I haven’t thought of it in this way before, but this idea sparked my thinking. If properly implemented, it could yield a lot in terms of European legitimacy at a low cost.

    Furthermore, although the European Parliament is a democratically elected institution crucial for the EU’s functioning, it nonetheless lacks real prerogatives to act as a single generator of democracy in a number of respects. To name but one example, I was shocked to read about the scandal concerning the internal audit, especially because they were quick enough to forbid its publication and prevent it from receiving public attention. If that is democratic, then I prefer to have my parliament represent me. At least I know who I vote for and what behavior I can expect from them. I don’t want to imply that scandals are absent from national politics at all, but the EP is far from being a saint either. I won’t even mention the constant flying back and forth to Strasbourg at the expense of citizens. That is a complete nonsense. I am convinced that people would very much appreciate if national parliaments realized that they are actually part of the EU! The governments have adapted amazingly well to the way EU decisions are made, but not the parliaments. The Commission communicates with the governments’ permanent representatives in Brussels and only when they reach a decision do they inform the EP which merely approves what they are being served. That’s why I’d really like to see what Mr. Pöttering thinks about this idea.

    For the rest, I give my vote to European democracy in which national parliaments play an active role!

  26. This is a rather innovative post. I have not read anywhere else before about national institutions lending their democratic legitimacy to the EU beyond holding their ministers to account. National parliaments belong to the national arena, but I do acknowledge that there could be a more inclusive case for them within the EU. I mean, it would be nice to be involved in each and every decision of the EU, but I am aware that it is not realistic. Europe-wide referenda as means of direct democracy are a very good tool, but a very cumbersome and expensive one, whereas the implementation of this idea does not entail any particular effort (so it seems) and that is why I think that national parliaments might have more of a legitimizing role than the current EU mechanisms allow for. Well done.

  27. I really support this idea. I think this is the right way to look at the future of Europe.

  28. I have to make a remark that my country, the Netherlands, which will host the Congress of Europe this year, has shown two tendencies which are not quite clear to me. On the one hand, our parliament mainly intervenes in EU policy when the European Parliament does not. On the other, the Dutch Parliament formed a temporary joint subsidiarity committee which scrutinizes draft proposals of the Commission and directly communicates with it. This tells me that it is both willing and unwilling to provide further legitimacy for the EU. Therefore, I would like to ask the representatives of both the European Parliament and the Commission, who will be present at the congress, for their opinion about this peculiar behaviour of the Dutch Parliament and if they think this is a desired way forward for the EU.

  29. I’m not sure in how far the parliaments would be prepared to perform extra workload. They already have busy agendas, so I don’t know if they would be able to accept this new role and do it correctly. However, it sounds pretty interesting to investigate the possibilities of this idea. I think there might be a positive democratic surplus in restyled role of parliaments as suggested. Perhaps it would be good to hear the opinions of the competent persons on this topic.

  30. This is, quite simple, the best idea of the lot. What Europe needs at this point in its ‘life’ is not any new fancy, shiny idea which will prove useless but a return to its base.
    It seems that 50 years in, the Europen Union suffers from a lack of trust from its citizens (or more accuratly, the citizens of its member states). And giving more weight, and more voice, to the national parliaments is one way to try and stop this problem.

  31. I think it wouldn’t even be constitutionally correct for the EP to hold the Council to account because they pass EU legislation together. This is why this seems like an efficient solution to the problem of the Council’s uncurbed powers. The Council needs some room for maneuver, but surely not as much as it has now.

  32. I fully agree that democratic legitimacy in the European Union should also come from the national parliaments. The most important reason is that the European Parliament at this stage simply cannot provide sufficient control of the unaccountable EU institutions. The national parliaments have all the necessary means at their disposal to underpin the democratic setup of the EU and they should use it. The good part of this idea is that it does not require any further expenses to be born by the citizens. That is why I find this a very balanced idea.

  33. At the moment as we discuss the role of national parliaments in the EU and their potential to contribute to the European democracy and accountability, we receive a solid proof from the European Commission on this very topic.

    Namely, Ms Margot Wallström, the Vice-President of the European Commission gave a statement in which she confirmed that national parliaments are indeed part of the EU and should take an active attitude towards the Europeanization of national political debates and bringing Europe closer to the citizens.

    Here is the most important part of her statement:

    “And we want to break the often artificial divide between national and European issues.

    The policies of the EU affect everyone’s lives, whether through its Regulations on subjects such as mobile phone roaming charges or through the free movement of people or goods or any other of the EU’s many achievements.

    EU policies therefore need to be fully anchored in the political parties, in the national democratic traditions, and in the daily political dialogue. They need to be discussed and debated, whether in the town hall, in regional assemblies, national parliaments, on television shows or on the internet.

    Politicians have to make EU policies understandable and relevant to citizens. We have to listen and to deliver. We have to make the EU institutions accountable and reliable to those they serve. We need to debate and discuss together what initiatives and decisions the EU should take.

    Only then can we achieve good and sustainable political results. Public support for the EU will come only through a lively and open debate, and by getting citizens actively involved in designing the European project.

    And remember, the EU is not “Brussels” – it is 27 Member States with 500 million citizens, their governments and elected representatives at all levels.”
    (EUobserver, 02 Feb 2008, full text at: http://euobserver.com/7/25904)

    This is a clear and unambiguous sign that the Commission would be willing to deepen its collaboration with the national parliaments. This is a very significant acknowledgment of the European executive since it conveys the positive message and an invitation for national political actors to take action.

    I understand why this invitation was made. Only national parliaments have institutionalized resources to connect citizens to the EU. They receive considerable media attention which no other EU institution will receive in the near future. They have political conflicts which are the core factor for the creation of political awareness. They have committees dealing with European affairs. We now need to insert Europe more openly into these discussions and the situation will surely improve.

    The momentum is there, now we need action!

  34. I think this is an innovative concept which opens the door to pragmatic solutions which allow for greater citizenship input in European institutions and decision-making. The greatest strength of this proposal is its thinking outside ‘the box’ and its trying to incorporate existing ‘national’ bodies more intimately within EU institutions and government. This core idea has significant potential and should be the focus of continued elaboration.

  35. Such a far-sighted idea! It seems like the EU officials are starting to realise the importance of inclusion of people’s opinions more directly in the legislative process of the EU. It’s high time they also started a broad debate on it and create a permanent platform for discussion and national parliaments are just the optimal solution. Even though I am personally not a fan of referenda, it might sometimes be an interesting feature. The feature, however, is nevertheless one-off event and can’t be held but for the decision of historic significance for the EU. If the European Parliament officials share this same concern as the Commission, I’d expect to see some reshuffling in their relations with the national parliaments. That would bring about a change in the attitude of the citizenry towards the EU not by turning their scepticism into optimism, but by informing them about different political and policy choices from which they can choose their own path for the future.

  36. I agree that the national parliaments should be involved more actively in the EU decision making process in order to achieve legitimacy and that
    their role should be strengthened. I agree also that the European Parliament is an important institution of the EU.

  37. Interesting, but very far-reaching idea. I especially like the idea of holding parliament representatives responsible for their performance in the Council. In my experience from my country (Hungary), ministers very much like the idea of being a member of the EU, but pay much less attention to their actual tasks which come with this position. As far as democracy is concerned, I’m afraid that for countries with a less extensive history of democracy, it is a catchy phrase, but not a practice. Which is exactly why a more thorough scrutiny is needed on a European level. It is interesting to see how this debate evolves.

  38. The statement of Ms Wallstrom is nothing but a confirmation of my earlier comment that national parliaments are capable of bridging the communication gap between the EU and European citizens.

    What remains to be seen is how the Commission will pursue its vision. Let us see how it will keep its own “promise”.

  39. The concept proposed does seem a logical move in order to let the voice of the peoples of Europe be heard. Legitimacy is key to establishing a more vertical EU accountability mechanism, in which National Parliaments play a pivotal role so as to create a medium where the role of the citizens is enhanced.

  40. I welcome the suggestion that the national parliaments should go beyond the mandating of their ministers. As long as the national parliaments keep silent, they will stay sidestepped by all EU actors and so will the citizens have only the European Parliament left to secure their interests and I have doubts that it can cope with the Commission and the Council alone.

  41. I definitely agree with Mr Jancic in the sense that a fully integrated system seems to be the most logical solution. But how can this integration take place without taking into account institutions as essential parts of this complex decision-making structure? Integration is the only way for better democracy, bringing the decision-making structure closer to the citizens.

  42. I very much support this idea, as well as the comments of Pablo on institutional integration and Quentin on the return to the EU’s basics. In the omnipotent EU which gains ever more powers, we need no extra institutions (second or third chambers of the European Parliament), we need no extra expenses, we need no extra bureaucracy.
    All this can be solved by a more substantial link between the already existing institutions into one functional system of decision making with national parliaments filling evident democratic gaps in the EU’s current institutional setup.

  43. I am delighted with this proposal and some of the above comments. The reason is because it advocates a big change with little effort. I read through most of the other ideas on “more influence for the EU citizens”, “more interaction between the EU and its citizens”, “opening up of the law-making process”, “democratic deficit” and so on, but they can all be summarized in this proposal!

    The national parliaments of the EU have always been an intermediary between the EU and the citizens, whereby they ratify treaties, implement directives, etc. but with this proposal we are able to strike several fallacies of the current system with one hit. Not only are national parliaments themselves directly elected by the same European citizens, but they also appoint governments which are composed of the ministers who act in the Council of Ministers, but they also appoint the Prime Ministers who act in the European Council. They are in the focus of all the national media (press, TV, etc), who in turn create EU law which then gets back to the national level by ratification or implementation. It is because of this law-making cycle that we need our national parliaments have a greater say in the most important legislative portfolios.

    It is a wise way to link Europe with its Member States without the fear of falling back into the vices of the ideologies of a nation state.

  44. Further interaction and strengthened connections between national parliaments and the EU does appear to be the strongest way forward. It’s far better than waiting for the development of an EU party system to increase the public interest and improve the link between the EU and its citizenry. However I can still see difficulties! National Parliaments just do not show enough interest – in the UK the parliament takes so little interest (including debating at 5 am at times) when considering general EU affairs and really only pay attention when the critical decisions need to be made. This will take a long time to change.

  45. I agree with Mr. Jancic. Indeed national parliaments are an important pillar in EU constitutional order.

  46. This idea goes very much in line with the current evolution of the EU since the Treaty of Lisbon includes some provisions which cover this area. National parliaments have been one of the hottest issues of both the negotiations of the European Constitutional Treaty and the Treaty of Lisbon and this proposal certainly goes into the right direction.
    I would also like to add that I do not think that European democracy is only about negotiations and voting. The Commission will almost never propose something that would be unacceptable for the Council. It is much more about becoming part of daily discussions in European capitals and this is where national parliaments could contribute to a great extent. This is something that both national parliaments and Presidencies of the EU could very well take care of.

  47. I find particularly interesting the idea that national parliaments bring the Commission before the ECJ. To date, an action against the Commission can be brought as regards the legality of its acts and its failure to act. However, these proceedings can be initiated only by the Member States (read: governments) or other EU institutions. But the governments have constant consultations with the Commission anyway and it is not logical that they will control it effectively. Quite the opposite. With national parliaments bringing this action against the Commission, we get a qualitatively new control of the Commission. It will be possible to see better where the limits of the Commission’s powers are in practice. It has become involved in almost all fields. As the Lisbon Treaty allows for this, it will possible to basically control the Commission’s policy intentions in terms of the subsidiarity principle, which is restricted to the control of the competences in shared powers of the Commission. I think that national parliaments should go even beyond that and contribute to the EU discussion even in the fields of exclusive EU policies in a consultative manner in cases where that can be beneficial for the well-being of the European citizens.

  48. I am of opinion that the Commission has done a very good job over the last period. But there is something I am concerned about. Namely, who appoints the Commission? The European Council, not the European Parliament. The fact that the Lisbon Treaty says that the European Council should choose the President of the Commission according to the results of the European elections is nothing but an empty clause. It was always hardcore political concerns which decided about the Commission President. In this respect, I would go for the partial involvement of national parliaments to rectify this anomaly.

  49. Dialogue between the European Commission and the national parliaments during the phase of EU’s legislative planning would undoubtedly bring more legitimacy. I welcome Ms. Wallström’s remarks mentioned above by the author.

  50. I find mr. Jancic’s thoughts interesting, but I do not see them as a final institutinal settlement of the evolving European Constitutional order. As the European Union evolves further we can notice the increasing institutional integration. This is however not only on a constitutional phenomenon.

    The integration of national institutions into Europe is one of the essential consequences of the principle of autonomy. With regard to administrative law, the European order is oft regarded as a “Verwaltungsverbund”, national bodies are to execute laws made by Europe, but by the principle of loyal cooperation this is brought within the European order. In the same sense national judges figure as a European judiciary. So there are some overlappings with the judiciary and administrative side of the European Union.

    For practical reasons, which have already been mentioned above, I hold a double task of national parliaments in checking the national and European government problematic at the least. Is the Council and the Commission to go to all 27 national parliaments?
    It is clear that there is a national democratic deficit, not a European democratic deficit. With that I mean that the lawmaking proces on the European level lacks a national democratic legitimation. In most federal states this is provided by a strong senate (like Australia and United States) that represent people as being nationals, while their House of Representatives represents the people as being Australian or American. We currently lack the former. Using national parliaments is one way of trying to provide for this lack.

    The proposal Mr. Jancic is bringing forward is taking the right direction in focusing on representing people from a national perspective. But I do not know whether it is a right manner of adressing it.

    I am very aware that my remarks pass bij the presumption of Mr. Jancic that Europe has or should have a Composite and Polycentric Constitutional order. I rather see the proposal as an intermediate stage towards a strong senate, that represents persons as citizens of the member state. In that sense you can maybe see the following order:
    1. Representation at European Union by Diplomats (International Law)
    2. Council of Ministers of the Member State, whose ministers are individually controled by the National Parliament of each member state and collectively by the EP. (current situation)
    3. Council of Ministers (including Commission) of the Member State, which are individually and collectively controled by the National Parliament of each Member State and only collectively the EP. (Mr. Jancic’s Proposal)
    4. Council of Ministers (or a not yet existing European Government) controled individually and Collectively by the European Parliament and a Senate elected by National Parliaments.
    5. Council of Ministers controled individually and Collectively by the European Parliament and a Senate which are both elected by the people, the former by the people as citizens of Europe, the latter by the people as citizens of the Member-State.

    As such, the fact that the idea of Mr. Jancic finds approval on this website shows that we are moving forward as a Union. Ofcourse with very little steps…..

  51. I’ve always been in favour of an increased accountability and a more democratic Union. It seems to me that Mr Jancic’s proposal could indeed advance such things, since national parliaments currently are the institutions which are closest to the European citizens. We should be cautious, however, not to let national interests (which are the primary aim of national parliaments) overrule European interests. Therefore, the strengthening of the position of the European Parliament should continue. Mr Jancic’s proposal could function as an intermediate solution until legitimacy and accountability can be realized at a truly European level.

  52. I fully agree with the observation that this could serve as an intermediate solution for the EU until such time as “development of the EU party system” as Mike put it, or until “legitimacy and accountability can be realized at a truly European level” as Jasper put it, or until the President of the European Commission is elected by the European Parliament and not finger-pointed by the European Council, which is implicit in Tanja’s comment. Peter also understands this idea well in coming to the same conclusion. However, it should be born in mind that this intermediate period might last for quite a long time, since there are no major treaty amendments in prospect after the Lisbon Treaty (I say “major” because there will inevitably be treaty changes due to enlargement, but nothing other than that has been contemplated for a considerable period in the future). At least, this is what the Heads of State or Government have mentioned in their Lisbon negotiations, and what Mr Barroso consequently confirmed.

    Before turning to the main point, I would just briefly like to say that I cannot see a Senate as a solution for the EU, because it would be (1) expensive, (2) unnecessary since we already have many Senates as parts of national parliaments and it would just be irrational doubling of the bureaucracy, (3) improper for a directly elected representative institution such as a national parliament to further elect another representative institution of the same kind, (4) inefficient because there is not a real need for triple elections (for the European Parliament, for the national parliament, for the Senate).

    This is the core problem of European democracy – the Lisbon Treaty does not create a full-blown political community in which the European Parliament would independently install the Commission and perform political control of it. Even that I do not see as the biggest problem, but rather the following. The EC Treaty does not create a channel of accountability for the most important EU institution: the Council (i.e. the Council of the European Union or the Council of Ministers). This is perhaps regrettable because the current system of accountability of the Council to the European Parliament is of very limited outreach. Namely, while there is a possibility of tabling a motion of censure on the activities of the Commission, the Council shall be heard by the European Parliament only according to the conditions laid down by the Council itself in its Rules of Procedure. And the Lisbon Treaty does not change this and this is where I see the national parliaments’ role. If they held their ministers to account not only for safeguarding the national interest but indeed for the European interest as well, the Council would have a channel of accountability. Thus, the Council members (national ministers) need not go anywhere else but to their own parliament; the added value is that they are held accountable not only for the safeguard of the national but also the European interest. This can be done by the same hearings that are already organized but by having them account not only for their own national vote but also for the rest of the activities of the Council, because they are indeed its members. As regards the Commission, they should occasionally explain their legislative agenda in national parliaments in order to give it a political weight and spark a national political debate on European issues which is currently missing. It might change in the future, but it might not.

    Therefore, if we want action that does (1) not entail unnecessary costs for the people, (2) contributes to the creation of public awareness because of media attention, (3) contribute to the national political debate on Europe (reference to Ms Wallström’s speech) and which, ultimately, (4) provides an additional channel to rectify mainly the Council’s but also the Commission’s democratic deficit, I am positive that national parliaments are a valuable means to achieve this.

  53. Very nice analysis, because the EU is moving fast towards a real union, it’s stretching its competences every day, which isn’t bad in itself, but the underlying democratic principles don’t stretch along to encompass it. And in such a union it’s not good that our most important representative institution is left without a significant say. And it is true that some of the parliaments are ‘lazy’, but I want the parliament that people hear from, that people understand (language-wise), that people are familiar with to incorporate what the EU has to offer to the public. That’s why I support this idea.

  54. The strength of this idea is in its applicability and potential for change that our Union needs. Many other ideas on this blog are nice but unrealistic or can be realised via national parliaments and for that I vote for this idea…
    If anyone is capable of reaching the citizen it is our parliaments and one more thing – I hope there will be feedback on this…

  55. With the news on the EU’s intention to go so far as to regulate the company tax, I think the national parliaments should react and express their opinion. This idea fits well into this perspective.

  56. In my view, if we take account of the fact that there’s no European demos as yet, this idea makes a lot of sense, because national parliaments do not suffer from the demos problem and they could, as Mr. Jancic proposes, be a direction which is worthwhile considering. I’d say that the problem of a true European demos will even worsen as the enlargement goes on, which I see as an advantage in favour of national parliaments.

    Naturally, I don’t see national parliaments as a substitute for the European one, but as two players which should cooperate in the achievement of common goals.

  57. This is a very sensible idea – in the EU we have 27 Member States with different languages, cultures, political systems and the parliaments operate in this national setting and are better suited to respond to citizens’ concerns. This is what I find a great advantage in favour of national parliaments’ role in the EU.

    And I would not even agree that some parliaments are passive or not interested. In France, there are parliamentary committees both in the Assemblée Nationale and the Sénat which perform intense scrutiny of Commission’s proposals. In this respect, I think that we already have a working system in France. When Mr Barroso visited the Assemblée Nationale in 2006, it was a unique experience, because parliamentarians were putting questions which provided a very good opportunity for the Commission to prove their authority. It was a good test in a national environment. I support the Commission’s work and I think it should always accept such opportunities to prove that it is developing into a trust-worthy institution which is not a distant group of people who shape the EU policy, but actually a group of people who do come to defend its policy there where it will be implemented – in the Member States. We should remember that the EU is composed of Member States. We now have 27 Member States, but in a few years this number will increase and I do not expect the people to lend their confidence to the European Parliament blindly (however desirable it would be for an integrationist mind like mine).

    I think that there is a significant potential in national parliaments of the EU Member States, precisely because they are national in nature and because as such they are historically embedded in the societies. In building the EU further towards a real Union of Europe, the national parliaments could help in creating a critical mass for the people’s acceptance of the EU. If we want a real union of all peoples, not only of the elite, we need to unite first what the people know about and this means we have to start at home, at our own doorstep.

  58. I must agree with Mr. Jancic.

    In their given institutional setting, national parliaments already have the tools to influence and control Council decisions. The ministers participating in the Council must give account of their European actions at their national parliaments.

    In addition to what has been discussed in this forum, the unanswered question remains: why national parliaments do not apply this tool to the fullest or use it more frequently.

    As long as citizens of Europe do not think of themselves as actors at European level, the national parliaments – that are elected by these same citizens of Europe – will not be able to represent this role. To solve the democratic deficit of the EU, one ought not only look for solutions within the EU institutional order. The solution to this problems lies at national level amongst the electorate.

    Their voices might be heard, but their utterances will not have any effect as long as they feel that the gap between them and ‘the topic of conversation’ does not shrink.

  59. Yes, I agree with what has been said here so far, and I would like to emphasize that this idea does not lead to more nationalism, but to Europeanization in the full sense. In my opinion, this leads to a united EU in all terms. I think Mr. Peter above mentioned something like this that this unity also exists in administration and justice in the EU, and this idea follows as a logical step towards the completion of our union.

  60. I’m not sure about this statement of Mr Richard Corbett who said that the EP controls the Council of Ministers. If this was as he says, then we wouldn’t have any second thoughts on the transparency and democracy of the whole process in which the EP rubberstamps the decisions which the Commission and the Council of Ministers previously agree on. This is precisely why I think the national parliaments must realise their duty to hold them to account!

  61. Sounds splendid, but I think the realisation of this idea will depend on the cooperation of the main EU institutions. Some of the Lisbon achievements may contribute to its implementation in practice and, as I said, it will be crucial to see if the EU institutions will accept to cooperate. I mean primarily the Council of Ministers, because the European Commission and the European Parliaments already have some sort of cooperation established through their committees.

    In my view, the most important part of what Mr Jancic proposed is this idea that the Council of Ministers should start accounting for their activities in the legislative process to the national parliaments in a reformed manner by giving reports as a member of the Council of Ministers thereby defending the so-called European interest and not only as national ministers. This is a very progressive approach and it would bring together all the involved institutions to a united position. Before all this sees the light of the day, we need to know in how far the national ministers in the Council of Ministers are actually “European actors”, because if they account only as ministers and not as European officials, then we do not really have any real accountability. This idea goes into the direction of solving this problem, but it will depend on the attitude of the Council of Ministers as a European institution.

  62. The national parliaments were the cornerstones of European integration and they should continue with this role. I am in favour of their increased involvement because they have unfairly been neglected in the process of creation of the EU, despite being the most representative of the institutions…

  63. Below we can find another interesting insight about the role of European elections, which is tightly related to my idea that national parliaments can corroborate the democratic legitimacy and accountability of the EU. This article outlines the main reasons for my idea and this is, in a nutshell, the reality of an insufficient political environment in the EU, the environment that exists in the EU Member States and that is vested in the national parliaments.
    Please, do have a look at the interesting, and I would say true, points that Mr Van der Eijk makes about the current political environment in the EU.

    The link is as follows:
    http://www.euractiv.com/en/opinion/eu-elections-europe/article-171590?Ref=RSS

  64. The role of national parliaments should remain on the member states’ side of the house. In other words: the gouvernments of member states are responsible to their national parliaments. It is via them and the council to influence decision making in the EU. As far as the European people(s) are concerned: the European Parliament is the place for their say in European affairs. Don’t mix these two pillars !

  65. There is a rising call for measures to strengthen the direct legitimacy of the EU decision-making process and Mr. Jancic’s article provides a coherent idea that should definitely be embraced.

    National parliament’s powers have been significantly reduced as EU’s supranational system of governance has gained undeniable importance. As a result, the decisions once subject to a certain degree of democratic control (at national levels) now seem to lack legitimacy.

    Even the European Parliament, the only directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union, is unable to confer satisfactory legitimacy and accountability to the EU’s most important institutions. As pointed out by Professor Cees Van der Eijk (“EU elections ‘not about Europe'”), it is unrealistic to view European Parliament elections as “real elections”, as voters make decisions based solely on national issues.

    National parliaments are the quintessential repositories of popular will and the strongholds of democratic legitimacy. It is the key institution to ensure popular input and to hold the executive accountable.

    To enhance European Union legitimacy — and to diminish the democratic deficit — the role of the national parliaments within the EU decision-making process must be strengthened.

  66. These are admirable wishes, but the sad truth is that the EU is not really interested in involving national parliaments in its decisions.

    It is actually interested in replacing them.

    Whenever the heat builds about the EU’s democratic deficit, the parliaments are thrown a small bone. Usually they can ‘have a say’, which the Commission will have to ‘consider’, but which can ultimately be safely ignored. Big deal!

    What’s more, I would say that reform to resolve the EU’s serious democratic deficit should come before giving the EU even more powers.

    But ‘strangely’, as we have seen with the Lisbon Treaty, that doesn’t happen either.

    Hence it looks to European peoples, with some justification, that those building the EU do not have democratic values at their heart.

    We need a Europe of co-operation, not old-fashioned political centralisation. That might have sounded like a good idea in the 1950s. But today we have a very different world, with different problems and needs.

    Today’s EU, gathering all decisions to its undemocratic centre, is now increasingly out of date relative to Europe’s needs.

  67. As a reply to Mike, I wish to point out that I agree that not all the EU institutions are very keen on having national parliaments better involved in its affairs (especially the Council), because they feel competition, fear more responsibility or that it might affect efficiency of decision making. But we should not disregard the fact that Denmark has a higher rate of timely transposition of directives than any other EU Member State, thanks to effective scrutiny, no matter how specific their political system is. Besides, the 8 weeks for subsidiarity check from the Lisbon Treaty cannot really hurt much in terms of efficiency but can provide a valuable input from the people’s representative bodies.

    A large majority of secondary EU decisions are pre-made in informal negotiations by all the involved institutions and precisely in this informal area of EU decision making, the Commission informally agreed to establish direct links with national parliaments and hold discussions mainly on the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. This is an informal dialogue which is ongoing irrespective of the Lisbon Treaty. This is something the Commission of its own motion committed itself to. It voluntarily agreed to liaise with national parliaments, because it finds it useful to hear their input.

    As you rightly observe, the Lisbon Treaty does not solve the democratic deficit. It is indeed a difficult issue to solve, but national parliaments are a valuable instrument in this respect. The whole idea of having a functional international organization called the European Union depends on the same national parliaments and they are an integral part of the EU mechanism. IMPORTANTLY, it is the national parliaments which decide who will have the most democratic of the rights – the right to vote for the European Parliament. In this respect, the European Parliament cannot properly function without the national parliaments. EU affairs are taken too easily and too lightheartedly taken into consideration.

    Finally, I agree that today’s EU is increasingly out of date and I see one way to fix this in a slightly refurbished way in which the national parliaments question the ministers. If the national parliaments held them to account as Council members, thereby questioning them about the EU policy, about why the Council did or did not adopt this or that act, this would be a new forum for accountability of the Council. What we have today is merely the accountability for a vote in the Council based on a national interest. The national parliaments do represent the national interest, naturally, but in an enlarging Union we need to make the obscure decision-making process a bit more down-to-earth and no change is needed for that except for the reform of the scrutiny systems of ministers.

  68. I am unsure as to whether there is a democratic deficit and disagree with the call for direct legitimacy of the EU, as mentioned above in places.

    In my opinion, if we are to consider the European Union as a project in democracy, as disctinct from all other forms of governance, there are arguments in favour of the way it is organised, though I do contend that this structure needs to be streamlined to accomdate governance with 27 countries.

    My first hypothesis is that the EU does not suffer from a democratic deficit. If we consider it does in the sense that there is mimimal direct public participation, then yes it does have a problem (on paper at least). On this point, i do think there is a problem with the way the European Parliament is structured. In the UK, for example, where there are only two real political parties, whose members are supposed to appeal to voters with interests across the entire spectrum of political ideologies and purposes, there is still a party whip that ensures that the party policy is observed. This has been highlighted recently by the Embryo Bill, when the PM had to allow Labour MPs to vote according to their religious beliefs. Similarly, MEPs are supposed to represent their European political party, albeit in a less defined manner. If you look at Ireland, for example, this is not the case, as is seen during elections when national political parties caqmpaign for their own candidates. On this, representational democracy is difficult to legitimize, especially when distances from power are considered: increasing competences to regional governance structures is a growing concept, both in terms of efficiency and representation. How then, can a fully fledged European parliament that sits in Brussels honestly be expected to appeal to people from every region of Europe (people within countries are not all the same – national parties have a dificult enough time appealing beyond small regions within their countries, e.g. Belgium).

    Secondly, with regards to the claim that legitimacy is by-passed by the direct appointment of commissioners by heads of states(more so with the Lisbon treaty, as not every country can have a commissioner),as this avoids the claim that leaders should be voted for by the people themselves. European commissioners are supposed to be impartial, consumate, Europeans. They may only refer to “the country they know the best”. In practice of course, they are only human, trained in the cultural values and traditions of their homelands. This is best illustrated by the recent issue of the Commissioner with the mandate to address Italy’s treatment of Romanian migrants failing to do so, and the languages Commissioner (from Romania) feeling the need to openly condemn this failure to act. The Commissioner responsible was, of course, Italian himself.

    On this point, the Commission is well placed to act apropriately in the interests of all Europeans. They are nominated by governments, but they are not answerable to them. This may not be the case all the time with the British commissioner for trade, but it does seem logical that they would have an interest in doing the right thing for all Europeans. They are, for all intensive reasons, a sort of cabinet of ministers, with individual portfolios. Peer pressure alone should be enough for them to either learn how to be very very corrupt so as to conceal their motives, or to be open and constructive. Failure to do so will lose the appeal of the people themselves, who, of course, are the sole authority of the Union. I do believe, though, that a very strong Commission President is essential. This individual should really be the most enlightened, visionary, and strong leader Europe has to offer. Not only is he responsible for keeping the commissioners on track, but he also has EU leaders to contend with. Aside from that, he is responsible for making Europe look appealing to Europeans: No CEO wants the company to fold on his watch. It is in his political interests to ensure the continuing survival of a functioning European project. This does not sound like an easy job, and I doubt corruption is even possible with this amount of visibility and cititicism.

    Regarding the concern that the council of ministers do business in Europe that they wouldn’t get away with in their own country, is a reasonalbe one. On the other hand, though, why shouldn’t Europe take the graft for enacting legislation that is both necessary and important for the regions: national governments usually only last four years, and their prime objective is to stay in power. A lack of direct legitimacy in the European Council actually gives ministers an opportunity to negotiate solutions to common problems, especially when they would prove unpopular with the electorate. I do think there is opportunity for cronyism here, but at least the Commission has the power to bring them up on it before the ECJ if they think they acted beyond their competence (They did it when the Council let France and Germany violate their obligations as members of the the European Monetary Fund).

    To conclude, and I apologise for the length, it wasn’t supposed to be long, but it is an infectious topic, I do not agree that there is a legitimacy issue with the European Union. I do think it needs to communicate more with citizens, but I would advise limiting this to educational, cultural, and linguistic details. The dull legal issues that people don’t normally have an interest in should be avoided. I dont think people care too much how successful a government is unless they can directly relate it to themselves. There is much benefit in the EU for citizens, but unless thye see it, they dont care. They see it when they are exposed to cultural differences and similarities as a result of integration.

    I do not believe that the governance structures need to be altered to allow for increased participation; that the project is more successful in its real achievements when it is not directly connected to the people, but instead is answerable to the many distinct interests of national governments who have a lot more to answer for when their own electorates are considered. A fine example was the universally derided act of Jaques Chirac to issue a copy of the European Constitution to every household; by doing so, he confirmed what they probably already knew – that the EU was incomprehensible to them and impossible to understand, even irrelevent. Those same lucky citizens decided against adopting this piece of jibberish. Perhaps the fact that the EU is so complicated and difficult to grasp for the ordinary citizen is ok; maybe thats why it works – it is unfair to them that European technocrats force them to try to comprehend something so alien and elusive to their everyday lives. Let them do their thing, so they can get on with making the world a better place for Europeans, and, vicariously, everyone else.

  69. The view that there is no democratic deficit might not even have been plausible in the time of the EEC, when there was no European Union, and when it was a much more intergovernmental organization, let alone today when the EU has a wide competence to regulate almost all fields of life. If there is no democratic deficit, the European Parliament would never be transformed from a consultative body to a co-legislator.

    I also do not think it is a good idea to “let them do their thing, so we can get on with making the world a better place”, because there are many people who are interested in how they are being governed. And in this respect, this idea is a very good solution, because the proposed degree of involvement of national parliaments does not entail any change at all in the governance scheme of the EU and that is where its significance lies – in the realization that the EU can solve its own problem by entering into a partnership with what it already has in its structure – the national parliaments.

  70. Le leadership aux parlements nationaux sous prétexte qu’ils sont en prise directe avec le citoyen afin de rapprocher l’Europe de celui-ci?

    Ce serait la solution de facilité! Solution de facilité parce qu’elle occulte la dimension transétatique du processus européen! Solution de facilité parce qu’elle pèche en amplitude du regard au profit de l’intérêt national. Solution de facilité enfin parce qu’elle ferme les portes de l’avenir commun ( quand et comment seront pris en charge les enjeux collectifs du développement durable, de l’approvisionnement énergétique, de la gestion des flux migratoires…?)
    Pour Cédric qui croit ainsi valoriser le rôle du Parlement belge: sincèrement, comment peut-on espérer que les élus d’une région, incapables déjà de prendre en compte les intérêts d’une capitale européenne et de la région-soeur, défendront un projet aussi ambitieux ( et solidaire ) que la construction européenne???

  71. En répondant à Jean-Luc, je voudrais dire que la solution à propos des parlements nationaux pour la démocratie européenne n’occulte pas la dimension transétatique du processus européen d’aucune façon, parce que c’est exactement à cause de cette conception de l’Union européenne comme une entité distante ou transétatique qu’on existe la notion du déficit démocratique.

    Au contraire, l’idée d’avoir les parlement nationaux mieux rapprochés du processus de prise des décisions européennes illumine ce processus dans une manière différente. Elle ouvre un nouveau forum sur les affaires de l’Union européenne. Elle offre aussi un nouveau forum pour la responsabilité échappée de la Commission européenne et le Conseil des ministres comme j’ai déjà décrit ci-dessus.

    Enfin, c’est également impossible de prendre en charge des problèmes communs sans les institutions nationales. Naturellement, on ne peut pas exister aucune décision européenne sans les gouvernements nationaux, mais sans les parlements nationaux cettes décisions ne reçoivent pas la legitimité qui est, dans ce moment du développement européen, exigente pour approvisionner la compréhension des leus implications nationales pour l’électorat européen. De cette manière, les parlements nationaux deviennent un élément integral de la structure de la gouvernance européenne et d’ordre constitutionel européen.

  72. Comment alors concilier les légitimités de parlementaires nationaux et européens? Ne risque-t-on des conflits de compétences et si oui, qui les réglera? Je crains que ce ne soit personne et que les dossiers s’enlisent dans un aller et retour stérile entre assemblées.
    Quel “intérêt” de se présenter au scrutin européen si les débats et les prises de position sont revisités dans les assemblées parlementaires nationales? A qui reviendra le pouvoir du dernier mot?

    Autant de considérations pratiques qui risquent, paradoxalement, de renforcer le rôle de la Commission dans la mesure où elle s’impatientera des lenteurs procédurales. Et l’effet inverse se sera produit: un accroissement du déficit démocratique!!!

    Qu’en pensez-vous???

  73. Quand on parle des légitimités parlementaires nationaux et européens, on doit percevoir que ni le Parlement européen ni les parlements nationaux n’ont pas d’éléctorat différents. C’est le peuple européen ou, si on préfère, les citoyens des États Membres de l’Union européenne qui élisent les membres des parlements nationaux aussi bien que les membres de Parlement européen. C’est exactement les lois nationales adoptées par les parlements nationaux qui régissent les élection au Parlement éuropeen. C’est-à-dire qu’on ne peut pas exister l’élection européenne sans les parlement nationaux. C’est lié avec la citoyenneté européenne, parce que le Traité instituant la Communauté européenne établit qu’elle depend de la citoyenneté nationale qui est réglée par les lois nationales qui sont adoptées par les parlement nationaux. C’est pour ces raison que je crois que les parlement nationaux sont au fond de la démocratie européen et pas parce qu’ ils doivent remplacer le Parlement européen. Donc, il n’y a pas le problème de légitimité ni des parlements nationaux ni du Parlement européen tant qu’il y a un grand problème de légitimité du Conseil des ministres. Ces ministres sont lies avec deux ordres constitutionnels – celui de leur état et celui de l’Union européenne. Alors, si on voit ces ordres comme les entités séparées, il n’y a pas de forum de responsabilité des ministres participants au processus de prise des décisions européennes. Encore plus si on les voit seulement comme les représentants des intérêts nationaux.

    À propos des conflits de compétences, c’est déjà régi par le Traité de Lisbonne et son Protocole sur l’application des principes de subsidiarité et de proportionalité. Chaque institution veille au respect des principes de subsidiarité et de proportionnalité. En outre, tout parlement national ou toute chambre de l’un de ces parlements peut adresser aux présidents du Parlement européen, du Conseil et de la Commission un avis motivé exposant les raisons pour lesquelles il estime que le projet en cause n’est pas conforme au principe de subsidiarité. En ce moment, cette question est régie par le Protocole annexé aux traités fondateurs actuels et par une procédure informelle entre la Comission et les parlement nationaux. Selon toute apparence, le pouvoir du dernier mot reste avec les deux: les institutions européennes et les institutions qui coopèrent dans un seul ordre constitutionnel européen composé.

    Finallement, ce n’est pas vrai qu’on sera produit un accroissement du déficit démocratique par l’engagement modifié des parlements nationaux. Au contraire, on sera produit un accroissement de la légitimité des décisions européens! Un exemple suffira. Les parlement nationaux doivent approuver et mettre en oeuvre toute directive de la Commission et s’il sont engagés en avance du processus législatif européen dans un dialogue renforcé (qui peut être réglé juridiquement mais pas nécessairement), ça diminuera le nombre des saisines de la Cour de justice instituées à cause des manquements aux obligations de transposition des directives. C’est seulement un des avantages nombreux des parlements nationaux mieux engagés dans les affaires européennes.

  74. I can’t see any reason against including the parliaments of the Member States in the European debate. As much as I understood from the above comments, the MPs wouldn’t be involved in the EU legislative process itself as a matter of a legal obligation stemming either from the EU or the parliaments themselves and this is a very good solution. Without touching upon the powers of the EU institutions, the national parliaments revive the debate with them on a consensual basis. It should indeed be a matter of a consensus in the spirit of collegiality and cooperation between the national and EU institutions.
    I agree with the author that this idea could contribute to solving the problem of unaccountability of the Council of Ministers, but the degree to which this might happen is a different topic. I think it would depend on all involved actors and this would concomitantly be the best solution.
    I disagree that there would be a clash of competence, since both national parliaments and the EP have their own distinct competences laid down in their constituent documents.

  75. As we debate the topic, the national parliaments’ representatives, gathering at the COSAC meeting a few days ago, expressed exactly the same attitude towards their role in the EU decision-making process as I have tried to explain in my idea. The results of this meeting corroborate my view that national parliaments are a cornerstone of European democracy, working together with the EU institutions towards the same goal.

    As the Dutch parliamentarian Mr Han ten Broeke pointed out, “national parliaments effectively become EU institutions and as such they need to take responsibility and behave as part of the EU set up”.

    The President of the Délégation pour l´Union européenne of the French Assemblée Nationale, Mr Pierre Lequiller goes even further in saying that “we need to stop talking about subsidiarity and processes. It is time to really have constructive discussions of substance: how national parliaments can really influence legislation […]”

    The greatest news is actually that the national parliaments are becoming aware of their own role in the renewed European Union, of which they are an important integral part.

    The link to the article summarizing the meeting:
    http://www.euractiv.com/en/opinion/national-parliaments-prepare-bigger-role-eu/article-172270

  76. Roman Herzog and Lüder Gerken stressed the fundamental problem: weakening of national parliaments through the EU Council:

    http://www.openeurope.org.uk/analysis/herzog.pdf

    The solution is to expand the COSAC activities and the Amsterdam Treaty spirit, further the council needs to be put under more transparency and national and European parliament scrutiny.

    Currently Denmark has the tools. DK Council delegations are bound by national parliament opinions.

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