Read the paper. Panelists: Danuta Hübner, Member of the European Parliament,  Roger Liddle / Lord Liddle of Carlisle, Member of the British House of Lords; Chair of Policy Network, Michael Link, former member of the German Bundestag; Minister of State, German Federal Foreign Office,  Giles Merrit, Secretary General, Friends of Europe/Les amis de l'Europe, Sonia Piedrafita, Research Fellow, Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS)

During the 5th Brussels Think Tank Dialogue, legitimising EU policymaking and the role for national parliaments was discussed. The debates on the European Union’s so-called democratic deficit have gathered momentum since the early 1990s and brought the role of national parliaments in EU policymaking into the limelight. Many came to describe the deepening and widening of European integration via successive EU treaties as “a classic case of a gradual process of de-democratisation”1 because in their view, it has proceeded at the expense of parliaments and traditional mechanisms of parliamentary accountability.

The issue of the role of national parliaments in European affairs set sail in the tenacious quest of the past decades for better democratic quality of EU decision making, and has been recently steaming ahead in the context of the ‘euro crisis’. By now, it is not only uncontested that assemblies in the Member States should be kept in the loop of the Union’s activities but also that national parliaments dispose of a full repertoire of different instruments to ensure they can play a direct role in the system. National parliaments’ rights to access information, participation and objection to EU legislation are guaranteed in the Treaties, and seek to complement both the traditional functions of these assemblies – that is, to hold their governments accountable and communicate with their voters – as well as the work of the European Parliament, aiming to safeguard democratic representation and accountability at EU level.


Klaus Welle, Secretary General European Parliament
Since the Lisbon Treaty came into force 1 December 2009, the European Council got her legal status and the institutional innovations are gradually being implemented, the Europarliament won power. It has flexed its muscles and has now more power of co_decision, which possibility is used very well.

Tuesday 12 October 2010 CEPS arranged a meeting about functioning of the role of the EP in reality. Klaus Welle, Secretary General of the European Parliament staged as speaker. 50% Is according law and 50% is acting conform culture, habits and of what we make of it. And we are in the middle of the changes. Our role is increasing, but it needs to have time to develop further. The European Parliament is not like national parliaments, but more close like US Congress. We have to involve EP, which is sometimes underestimating international agreements.

There is an institutional set up and it is of importance to see what is been happening. The Parliament, seen as slow actor, is a very important body for the Council. While the infrastructure between experts to experts is excellent, infrastructure on institutional level is not yet present. Among issues and obstacles and with a look at legislation, a political infrastructure has to be invented. With the Commission there is a special partnership. Development of a framework with the Council is under the attention. People and functions in the EP are independent as their nomination is. As ambassador there are Eurocommissioners in the EP and EP members invites sometimes national members of parliament.


There are elections (people needs to have a choice, otherwise they become sceptical). A question is how to deal with 27 member countries. A model of political organistion by categorizing to political families and which families showed that there exists alliancies, could be an answer. Political parties as they occur in nation states, than within a similar situation in the US. A good example of how the EU can function mature is the approach of the economic crisis. Proposals started by the Council.

CEPS commentary:

On October 12th, the Secretary General of the European Parliament, Klaus Welle addressed the issue of the EP’s position under the Lisbon Treaty in a meeting at CEPS. Welle stressed the differences between the European and national parliaments by explaining that the former does not have to provide the executive body with a majority to govern, and it is therefore “absolutely free” from it. In this respect, it is more like the US Congress than the European national chambers.
He emphasised the new powers of consent for international agreements. The parliament will now be involved early on at the stage of defining the mandate, so its influence will be immediately tangible, unlike in the case of most EU legislation, of which citizens only feel the impact after it has been transposed into national rules. Another important Lisbon Treaty innovation is the enhanced budgetary powers of the Parliament, which will have to be taken into account by the European Commission“with a view to reaching an inter-institutional agreement”, thus contributing to the agenda-setting process of the EU