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European parties with more influence on member states. EP report

Published: 31.01.2024

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- The European Parliament, in a vote in plenary, adopted by an overwhelming majority a report prepared by the AFCO Committee and devoted to the issue of the role of national parliaments in the European Union.

- The report contains a number of recommendations and recommendations relating to the issue of strengthening the position of national parliaments within the EU structure, including their participation in the decision-making process.

- Some of these recommendations, such as the call for greater transparency in the work of EU institutions, should be viewed positively.

- On the other hand, however, the document contains recommendations that European political parties should be able to engage in the public sphere of EU Member States.


The role of national parliaments in the EU

The subject of an own-initiative report prepared by the European Parliament's Committee on Constitutional Affairs is the assessment of the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty's provisions on national parliaments. The rapporteur in charge of preparing this document is Paulo Rangel, a member of the European Parliament from the Portuguese Social Democratic Party (EPP).

At the beginning of the document, the importance of the national parliaments of the Member States for the functioning of the European Union is underlined, especially in terms of democratic accountability and legitimacy of its institutional system. On the other hand, the report makes the explicit claim that the role of these bodies in the EU decision-making process should be strengthened, which also applies to the creation of EU legislation. While it is acknowledged that there are mechanisms in place within the EU to ensure cooperation between national parliaments and the EU institutions, which have improved even in recent years, they are still not sufficient. According to the authors of the report, an argument in favour of increasing the importance of national parliaments is also the complicated institutional set-up of the European Union, which makes it difficult to scrutinise some of its bodies (e.g. the transparency of the activities of the Council of the European Union is a problem). In addition, national parliaments, unlike the governments of member states representing a single political position, are supposed to reflect pluralism and diversity of views. Therefore, as the document states, it is these parliaments that "contribute to the establishment of a genuine European political space and a real authentic public sphere". It is therefore about including the voice of parliamentary minorities from member states in the decision-making process at EU level.

The report makes a number of recommendations, often formulated in very general terms, on issues such as the scrutiny of Member State governments' activities in European affairs, the development of a European public sphere, the promotion of Early Warning System (EWS) reform, the implementation of the right to information, or better inter-institutional cooperation between EU national parliaments and the EP. In discussing these recommendations, it is worth highlighting a few of them.

In para. 3 calls on Member States, inter alia, to ensure that national parliaments have adequate resources and the necessary access to information in order for these bodies to exercise their constitutional scrutiny function insofar as their governments act at European level. The same point also stresses the importance of access to information, while recommending that the Council of the European Union provide national parliaments with access to its legislative database.

Point 4 emphasises the importance of transparency in the working methods and decision-making processes of the EU institutions, also pointing out that this is a prerequisite for enabling national parliaments to effectively fulfil their institutional role under the Treaties. Accordingly, the report inter alia calls for the voting records and positions of Member States in the Council of the European Union to be made public, while urging national parliaments to exercise their respective powers of scrutiny.

Also noteworthy is paragraph 10, which, in the context of the issue at hand, calls for European political parties to be strengthened and for these parties to be able to actively engage in the political sphere of EU countries and support their member parties when EU issues are at stake.

Paragraphs 13-17, relating to the Early Warning System on the possibility for EU national parliaments to influence EU law, inter alia suggest that the Member States and the EU institutions agree on a common understanding of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality and call on national parliaments to take into account the reasoned opinions of regional parliaments with legislative powers in their final reasoned opinions that are sent to the Presidents of Parliament, the Council and the Commission when exclusive regional competences are at stake.

Point 18, on the other hand, confirms that national parliaments, on the basis of Article 12 of the Treaty on European Union and Protocol No. 1 to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, have the right to receive information directly from the European institutions, while suggesting that this right be extended to regional parliaments with legislative powers.

Point 21 recalls that the current framework for relations between the Union and national Parliaments can be simplified and harmonised to make it more efficient and effective, while calling for more active involvement and direct interaction between the European institutions and regional parliaments with legislative powers, while fully respecting the role and competences of national Parliaments.

Paragraph 22 stresses the need to strengthen the political and technical dialogue between parliamentary committees as well as political groups, including, inter alia, at European level.

The report was adopted by the AFCO Committee on 7 December 2023 by an overwhelming majority, with 17 votes in favour, 1 against (Jacek Saryusz-Wolski) and 2 abstentions. On the other hand, on 17 January this year, at the plenary session in Strasbourg, the European Parliament adopted a resolution containing the theses of the report. Again, the document was supported by a solid majority (453 in favour, 185 against and 95 abstentions). According to para. 26, the resolution should then be forwarded to the Council of the European Union, the European Commission and the governments and parliaments of the EU Member States.

Opposition by Polish MEP

Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (ECR), representing Poland in the European Parliament and in the AFCO committee, strongly criticised the document, stating that "the report on national parliaments presents excessive and harmful proposals and is written from this centralist perspective, emphasising the creation of a European political sphere revolving around European political families interfering in the affairs of member states. It does not properly treat national parliaments as full-fledged European political actors. It presents them as secondary political actors subordinate to the European Parliament. This report advocates the direct involvement of European political parties in Member States' election and referendum campaigns, thereby ignoring the diversity and autonomy of national political scenes. The ECR will vote against this report."

In a similar vein, the resolution was assessed by T. Orbán in the pages of The European Conservative, pointing out that "as part of the latest drive to create a centralised superstate by weakening member states and transferring their competences to Brussels, the European Parliament adopted two resolutions on Wednesday, 17 January, both under the guise of noble efforts to strengthen sovereignty and subsidiarity - but nothing else."

In assessing the European Parliament's report and resolution on national parliaments, it is important to note that it contains several positive recommendations. These include the recommendation in para. As such can be seen the recommendation contained in point 3, according to which the parliaments of the Member States should have access to the documentation of the Council of the European Union, or the recommendation contained in point 18, according to which it is confirmed that national parliaments have the right to receive information from the EU institutions. This is because they serve the purpose of transparency in the activities and decisions of this body. It is worth noting, however, that the document is based on the assumption that it is necessary to create a European public sphere in the specific sense of the term, with European political parties playing a key role, as evidenced for example in point 10. According to the proposal contained therein, these parties should have the right to be involved in the political sphere of the Member States, which may undermine the sovereignty of EU countries. In this aspect, the report, and also the resolution, should be assessed negatively.

Patryk Ignaszczak - Ordo Iuris Centre for International Law


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