National Parliaments Are Not Losers from EU Integration – At Least Not Anymore

Written by | Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

Katrin Auel, Olivier Rozenberg and Angela Tacea (LSE European Politics and Policy Blog)

National parliaments have continuously gone through a formal Europeanization during the process of European integration. Today, they have an excellent starting position to be more involved in EU affairs. Their activity in this area is fairly high but it is nevertheless still unclear to what extent national parliaments are really utilizing their relatively strong position. To that end, did the European integration weaken the powers of national parliaments?

A comparative study mapping the activity of the national parliaments of 27 EU Member States between 2010 and 2012 drew a number of conclusions. First, EU affairs were far from marginal in their agenda during that period: meetings of the Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs took place throughout the block more than once a week and lasted more than an hour. Moreover, parliamentary committees and chambers formulated on average 50 declarations related to EU affairs annually.

Second, the study found that parliaments were generally active but the extent of their activity varied from state to state. These discrepancies can be explained by the correlation between the institutional position of a particular parliament, and thus its powers, and its active involvement in the problem solving on the European level. Parliaments that are formally strong – such as in Sweden or Germany – are also more involved in EU affairs.

Third, chambers of national parliaments differ not only in terms of their general activity but also with respect to their involvement in EU affairs. Reasons for such differences are numerous. For instance, the number of published statements depends on the institutional characteristics of the political system. Individual chambers tend to be specialized and most of them do not have sufficient capacity to be involved in all areas.

European integration is currently far away from any attempts to marginalize national parliaments. They are in fact fairly active in EU affairs depending on their own institutional background. This can be an important argument contributing to the ongoing debate about the potential departmentalization of the block: parliamentary chambers, which have strong participation rights in the EU, also make a full use of this prerogative. Future studies could, however, focus on the extent to which national parliaments are in fact successful in their pursuits and activities.

(The study can be downloaded here)

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