Sunday

29th May 2022

EU threatening parliamentary democracy, says ex-German president

  • The German parliament is being bypassed by way of Brussels, say critics (Photo: Wikipedia)

Germany's state of parliamentary democracy is under threat from the European Union which is slowly taking away all the national parliament's powers, the country's ex-president has said.

In an article for newspaper Welt am Sonntag, Roman Herzog pointed out that between 1999 and 2004, 84 percent of the legal acts in Germany stemmed from Brussels.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"EU policies suffer to an alarming degree from a lack of democracy and a de facto suspension of the separation of powers."

"By far the biggest part of the current laws in Germany are agreed by the council of ministers [member states representation in Brussels] and not the German parliament," Mr Herzog wrote in a paper with Lüder Gerken, director of the Freiburg-based Centre for European Policy.

"And each regulation that the German government adopts in the council of ministers, has to be transplanted by the Bundestag [parliament] into German law."

The article continues by noting that Germany's own constitution foresees the parliament as the "central actor in the shaping of the political community. Therefore the question has to be raised of whether Germany can still unreservedly be called a parliamentary democracy."

The authors also complain that the EU constitution, over which there are currently renewed talks about its revival, will not solve this problem, nor that of the democratic deficit within the EU itself.

As a solution, the article suggests the European Parliament should be turned into a proper legislative assembly - calling this an "urgent requirement."

It also says that the council of ministers should have two chambers for when it is making law. The second chamber's function would be to check that the EU was not over-stepping its competences.

Another major innovation the EU needs, according to the paper, is a clear cut and definitive list of what the powers of the EU are and what the powers of member states are - this was something rejected at the time by the drafters of the constitution because they feared it would put a halt to the EU's evolution.

It suggests the current "mixing of competences" in the constitution will only allow an "even more dynamic appropriation of responsibilities [for the EU]."

Critical point

Mr Herzog's words come at a critical point in the EU constitution debate and for Germany itself.

Berlin took over the six-month EU presidency in January and has said it wants to work out a timetable for getting the rejected constitution back on track with chancellor Angela Merkel indicating that she wants to keep as much of the text as possible.

But the comment from the former constitutional judge and president of the bloc's biggest member state between 1994 and 1999 is not an isolated event.

German parliamentarians themselves have also started to complain about not being consulted enough on what their government agrees in Brussels.

In addition, the final technical step for Germany's ratification of the EU constitution is being held up due to a similar complaint.

Although both houses of parliament have overwhelmingly approved the document, Germany's president Horst Köhler has refused to sign it off until the country's constitutional court rules on whether the charter is taking too much power from the national parliament, after a centre-right MP filed a legal complaint in 2005.

German MPs clash with Merkel on EU powers

The German parliament has clashed with chancellor Angela Merkel on the control over Berlin's EU policy, with parliamentarians threatening to place "tougher" scrutiny on positions taken by German ministers in Brussels if they continue to ignore the parliament's concerns.

German court deals blow to Berlin's EU constitution plans

Germany's plans to put the EU constitution back on track early next year have been dealt a blow by the country's constitutional court. Meanwhile, the Estonian foreign minister has said that countries that have already ratified the EU charter should not have to do so again.

Opinion

Why the EU cannot go on like this

Why is it that national parliaments have been so willing to divest themselves of so much of their power to make laws, asks Anthony Coughlan.

Opinion

Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine - the case for granting EU candidacy

Granting EU candidacy status to Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine will firmly anchor their ties with Brussels — and enable the EU to secure its place in the Black Sea region, connecting Europe to China and energy-rich Central Asia, bypassing Russia.

Opinion

The EU Parliament Covid inquiry: the questions MEPs must ask

A basic lack of transparency around the EU's vaccines procurement negotiations has prevented effective public and parliamentary scrutiny. It has also made it impossible to answer some of the key questions we put forward here.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us