12 JUNE 2002

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The role of national parliaments in the European architecture

Michael Frendo addressed the European Convention and argued for adequate representation from each member state within the European Parliament to allow for effective participation in the decision-making processes of the Parliament

In our discussion of the role of national parliaments in the European Union, we at all times keep clearly in mind the objectives and mission of the European Union and fit the role of the national parliaments within that architecture designed to meet those objectives.

In an exercise where we are seeking to bring the citizen closer to the European Union, we must avoid creating overlapping superstructures which further confuse the citizen and further confuse the issue of where, and for what, accountability lies.

In my view, the role of the national parliamentarians is not that of substituting or overlapping with the role of the nationally-elected European parliamentarians elected specifically to represent the peoples of Europe in their various constituencies, and with the specific task of legislating on a Europe-wide scale. In my view, therefore, the creation of a second chamber composed of national parliamentarians is unnecessary, confusing to the citizen, and does not fit within an efficient architectural model of European Union. The direct election of the member of the European Parliament at the least provides the citizen with a focal point of accountability with regard to European matters.

In this regard, however, in the interest of not creating internal democratic deficits, it is imperative that the representation from each member state within the European Parliament is such that it allows for effective participation in the decision-making processes of the Parliament.

However there are specific instances and specific functions - but these must be the exception and not the rule - where it is desirable for the decision-making process of the Union to include also the National Parliaments. I refer specifically to exercises, such as this Convention, where constitutional issues are at stake and where changes of major import are being considered and decided upon. In this case, including national parliaments in the decision-making process widens the debate and strengthens the legitimacy of the constitutional changes, in the same way that in our national constitutions or practice we sometimes require public consultation in a referendum on certain matters which are considered to more fundamental than others. Similarly in the issue of subsidiarity, national parliaments should be involved in a political audit process where necessary in the application of the priciple of subsidiarity.

Thirdly, and finally, in my view, we should not only examine best practices within the member states of scrutiny of gpvernmental action at a European level : we should entrench, as an integral part of the decision-making process of the European Union itself, the principle that national parliaments should be consulted and have the opportunity to examine the policy and legislative positions of national governmental representatives in the European decision-making process.

Rather than having national parliaments involved as a rule at the European level, therefore, in my view, we should ensure that national governments are subject to ex ante accountability to National Parliaments and their relevant committees in the national governments participation in European decision-making processes.

I would take this further. In my view, this ex ante accountability of Governments to National Parliaments with regard to policies and legislation at the European level, should, as a principle, not in detail, become an integral part of the European Architecture.

This principle of ex ante consultation of governments with national parliament on european legislative and policy matters should be endorsed as an integral part of the EU decision-making process and therefore be adopted in a European Union constitutional document and become a part of the European constitutional legal order.

In this way, we would be effectively strengthening national parliamentary democratic control and contribution to the European decision-making process while not losing sight of the ultimate objective of a European architecture which is, at the same time, democratic, efficient, effective and understandable to the ordinary citizen.

 

 



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