National parliaments of the European Union

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The national parliaments of the European Union are those legislatures responsible for each member state of the European Union (EU). They have a certain degree of institutionalised influence which was expanded under the Treaty of Lisbon to include greater ability to scrutinise proposed European Union law.

Relations

Originally, national members of Parliament (MPs) were appointed to the European Parliament (EP) as Member of the European Parliament (MEPs). In 1979 the first direct elections were held, however national MPs still tended to contest these leading to them holding a "dual mandate". As the work load of an MEP increased, the number of MEPs who were also national MPs decreased and since 2009 it has been banned in all member states.1

In 1989 MPs from national parliaments and the European Parliament established the Conference of European Community Affairs Committees (COSAC) to maintain contact between national parliaments and the MEPs. COSAC continues to meet every six months and has now gained the right to submit contributions and examine proposals on EU law relating to Justice and Home Affairs.2 Aside from COSAC, relations between the EP and national parliaments are dealt with by the Conference of Presidents. The EP seeks to keep national parliament's fully informed of the EPs activities and some EP committees regularly invites national MPs to discuss proposals.3

However COSAC itself has little institutional structure and is largely leaderless meaning it is difficult for it to exercise its powers. Any concerted response tends to be spontaneous and self organised.4

Role and powers

Further information: Treaties of the European Union

Because the Maastricht Treaty of 1993 expanded the EU's competencies into areas of justice and home affairs, the treaty outlined the importance of exchanges between the European parliament and its national counterparts in a declaration attached to the treaty. This declaration asked national governments to ensure proposals for EU law were passed on to national parliaments with sufficient time for them to be scrutinised by MP and that contacts between these MPs and MEPs, began with COSAC, be stepped up.2

This was strengthened under the Treaty of Amsterdam in a protocol stating all European Commission consultation documents be promptly forwarded to national parliaments. They then have a six-week period to discuss legislative proposals, starting from the publication of the proposal to it appearing on the agenda of the Council of the European Union.2

The Treaty of Lisbon, in force from 1 December 2009, expanded the role of national parliaments.5 It sets out a right to information (TEU Article 12, TFEU Articles 70 and 352 and Protocol 16), monitoring of subsidiarity – see below – (TFEU Article 696), scrutinising policy in freedom, justice and security with the ability for a national parliament to veto a proposal (TEFU Articles 81, 85 and 88), taking part in treaty amendment (TEU Article 486) (including blocking a change of voting system to ordinary legislative procedure under the passerelle clause7), being involved with enlargement and generally being involved in dialogue with EU institutions (TEU Article 126).

Their power to enforce the principle of subsidiarity is of particular note. The principle is that, unless EU institutions have exclusive power, action will only be taken at a European level if it were to be more effective than acting at a national level. If a national parliament believes this principle has been broken, then this triggers a two-stage procedure: if one-third of national parliaments agree that a proposal breaks the principle, then the Commission has to withdraw, amend or maintain it. If the Commission maintains its proposal and a majority of parliaments continue to object, then the Commission will have to explain its reasons. However it may still continue, as this power does not challenge the legislative role of the Council and European Parliament.5 The first time the objections-threshold of 1/3 was reached was in 2012 with the Monti II Regulation.8

Prior to the Lisbon Treaty's enforcement, COSAC ran tests on the subsidiarity system to test and improve their response time to a question subsidiarity. Tests ended once Lisbon came into force and national parliament's responses to EU legislative proposals have become minimal. Although COSAC is primarily technical, it has been started to become more political especially since the Lisbon Treaty. They have begum to discuss more general political events and foreign policy issues. It is debated whether, in the limited time COSAC meetings have, it should be discussing subjects where it has such limited influence.4

Defence policy

As the Western European Union (WEU) was integrated into the European Union's Common Security and Defence Policy, the European Parliament took on a greater role. However, the Assembly of the Western European Union was retained to hold members to account for military missions. With the European Parliament not see as sufficient to take over this role, there was some desire to see the WEU's Assembly retained, rather than abolished as the European Parliament wished. However with the closure of the WEU (and its assembly) in 2010, there were proposals to ensure that EU cooperation between national parliaments took over its role informally through regular meetings of defence-interested national MPs.91011 The Lisbon Treaty calls for COSAC to establish a body to scrutinise European foreign and defence policy; however no agreement has been reached.4

Differences

There are a number of differences between the national parliaments of member states, owing to the various historical development of each country. 15 states have unicameral parliaments, with the remainders choosing bicameral systems.

Unicameral or lower houses are always directly elected, whereas an upper house may be directly elected (e.g. the Senate of Poland); or have a more limited electorate, such as a higher voting as (e.g. the Italian Senate); or indirectly elected, for example, by regional legislatures (e.g. the Federal Council of Austria); or non-elected, but representing certain interest groups (e.g. the National Council of Slovenia); or non-elected (though by and large appointed by elected officials) as a remnant of a non-democratic political system in earlier times (as in the House of Lords in the United Kingdom).

Furthermore, most states are Parliamentary democracies, hence the executive is drawn from the Parliament. However in some cases a more presidential system is followed and hence there are separate elections for the head of government and the Parliament, leading to greater discontinuity, yet more independence, between the two branches of government. However only Cyprus follows a fully presidential system, with France following a semi-presidential system.

List

Member state Parliamentary
system
Overall name of legislature
Lower house (members) Upper house (members)
 Austria bicameral Federal Assembly (Bundesversammlung)12
National Council (Nationalrat)12 (183) Federal Council (Bundesrat)12 (62)
 Belgium bicameral[I] Federal Parliament (Federaal Parlement / Parlement Fédéral / Föderales Parlament)
Chamber of Representatives (Kamer van Volksvertegenwoordigers
/ Chambre des Représentants / Abgeordnetenkammer)
1314 (150)
Senate (Senaat / Sénat / Senat)15 (60)
 Bulgaria unicameral National Assembly (Народно събрание)16 (240)
 Croatia unicameral Croatian Parliament (Hrvatski Sabor)17 (151)
 Cyprus unicameral House of Representatives (Βουλή των Αντιπροσώπων / Temsilciler Meclisi)18 (59)
 Czech Republic bicameral Parliament (Parlament)
Chamber of Deputies (Poslanecká sněmovna)19 (200) Senate (Senát)20 (81)
 Denmark unicameral Parliament (Folketinget)21 (179)
 Estonia unicameral State Assembly (Riigikogu)22 (101)
 Finland unicameral Parliament (Eduskunta / Riksdag)23 (200)
 France bicameral Parliament (Parlement) / Congress (Congrès)24
National Assembly (Assemblée nationale)25 (577) Senate (Sénat)2627 (343)[II]
 Germany bicameral [III]
Federal Diet (Bundestag)28 (622)[IV] Federal Council (Bundesrat)29 (69)
 Greece unicameral Assembly of the Greeks (Βουλή των Ελλήνων)30 (300)
 Hungary unicameral National Assembly (Országgyűlés)31 (199)
 Ireland bicameral Oireachtas (National Parliament)[V]
Dáil Éireann (House of Representatives)[V] (166) Seanad Éireann (Senate)[V] (60)
 Italy bicameral Parliament (Parlamento)3233
Chamber of Deputies (Camera dei Deputati)34 (630) Senate of the Republic (Senato della Repubblica)3335 (315)[VI]
 Latvia unicameral Diet (Saeima)36 (100)
 Lithuania unicameral Diet (Seimas)37 (141)
 Luxembourg unicameral Chamber of Deputies (Chambre des Députés / Abgeordnetenkammer / Châmber vun Députéirten)3839 (60)
 Malta unicameral House of Representatives (Kamra tad-Deputati)40 (69)[VII]
 The Netherlands bicameral States–General (Staten–Generaal)41
Second Chamber (or House of Representatives; Tweede Kamer)42 (150) First Chamber (or Senate; Eerste Kamer)43 (75)
 Poland bicameral National Assembly (Zgromadzenie Narodowe)[VIII]
Diet (Sejm)44 (460) Senate (Senat)45 (100)
 Portugal unicameral Assembly of the Republic (Assembleia da República)46 (230)
 Romania bicameral Parliament (Parlamentul)47
Chamber of Deputies (Camera Deputaţilor)48 (332) Senate (Senat)49 (137)
 Slovakia unicameral National Council (Národná rada)50 (150)
 Slovenia bicameral Parliament (Parlament)
National Assembly (Državni zbor)51 (90) National Council (Državni svet)52 (40)
 Spain bicameral General Courts (Cortes Generales)
Congress of Deputies (Congreso de los Diputados)53 (350) Senate (Senado)54 (259)
 Sweden unicameral Diet (Riksdagen)55 (349)
 United Kingdom bicameral[IX] Parliament56
House of Commons56 (646) House of Lords56 (740)

See also

References

  1. ^ "2002/772/EC,Euratom Council Decision of 25 June 2002 and 23 September 2002 amending the Act concerning the election of the representatives of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage, annexed to Decision 76/787/ECSC, EEC, Euratom". Official Journal of the European Communities. L 283: 1–4. 21 October 2002. 
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  4. ^ a b c Cooper, Ian (3 October 2011) European parliaments' body facing 'identity crisis', EU Observer
  5. ^ a b "Treaty of Lisbon: A more democratic and transparent Europe". European Union website. 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Consolidated versions of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union". Eur-Lex website. 2008. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  7. ^ Select Committee on European Union Tenth Report: CHAPTER 3: SIMPLIFIED TREATY REVISION AND PASSERELLES, British House of Lords 2008
  8. ^ "National parliaments show 'yellow card' to EU law on strikes". EUobserver. 29 May 2012. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  9. ^ Statement of the Presidency of the Permanent Council of the WEU on behalf of the High Contracting Parties to the Modified Brussels Treaty, WEU
  10. ^ Conference of MPs Urged To Replace WEU, Defence News
  11. ^ Cold War defence alliance to wind down, AFP
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  32. ^ Parliament (27 June 2006). "Parlamento italiano". Retrieved 2006-06-27.  (Italian)
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  51. ^ National Assembly (27 June 2006). "Republic of Slovenia National Assembly". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
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  55. ^ Riksdagen / Riksdagen (27 June 2006). "Riksdagen". Retrieved 2006-06-27.  (Swedish)
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  60. ^ Parlement-Wallon (27 June 2006). "Parlement wallon". Retrieved 2006-06-27.  (French)
  61. ^ Federal Government of Belgium (28 June 2006). "Walloon Region". Retrieved 2006-06-28. 
  62. ^ Cellule Internet du Parlement (27 June 2006). "Parliament of the French Community". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  63. ^ Parliament of the German-speaking Community (27 June 2006). "Parliament of the German-speaking Community". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
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External links


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