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27th Nov 2022

French MPs most active at monitoring EU laws

National parliaments in France, the UK, Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands have been the most active at keeping an eye on EU legislation coming out of Brussels, according to a new report by the European Commission.

The report sums up national deputies' response to a commission initiative, begun in autumn last year, to send out all legislative proposals to member state parliaments at the same time as they send them to other EU institutions.

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The move is to allow national parliaments to shoot off a warning to the commission if they think it is overstepping its powers or legislating in areas that would be best left to local level action.

In total, 83 opinions were sent to the commission by 22 national assemblies concerning 44 propositions from the Brussels executive – with the French senate by far the most active.

Around one third of them (27) came as a result of two studies organised by COSAC, the body representing national parliaments, specifically looking into the contentious subsidiarity (legislating at the most local level possible) and proportionality (that any EU law is in proportion to what is trying to be achieved) principles.

This studies focused on two pieces of Brussels legislation – on liberalising postal services and on making divorce between European couple of mixed nationality easier.

On the divorce issue, there were 15 opinions with the Czech and the Dutch assemblies being the most strongly against the proposal, saying it breaches both the subsidiarity and the proportionality principles.

There were 14 opinions on the postal services law, with the French, Belgian, and Luxembourg lower houses and the German upper house all expressing reservations about when it should come into place and how it will be financed.

French most active

Of the remaining 55 more off-the-cuff opinions, French deputies come top of the class for paying attention to what is coming out of Brussels.

The French, Belgian and Czech senates as well as the UK House of Lords, the German Bundesrat, and both Dutch chambers "account for 55 opinions, of which 30 come from the French senate alone," says the report.

The summary report calls the initiative "a success" noting that most of the responses by national parliaments evaluating the early warning mechanism have been positive – despite the fact that under the mechanism, the commission is not obliged to change any of legislative plans in the face of criticism from parliaments.

Involving MPs more in the Brussels legislative process is part of an overall strategy to bring the EU closer to citizens, an objective that moved sharply up the political agenda following the rejection of the draft EU constitution by France and the Netherlands in 2005.

The draft constitution itself has the mechanism enshrined in the treaty with a type of yellow card system whereby if one third of parliaments object to proposed EU legislation, the commission is obliged to consider the matter - a set-up that is likely to make it, in some shape or form, into the new-look treaty currently being negotiated for the bloc.

Other general initiatives by Brussels include more citizen-friendly legislation – such as regulating the rates charged for mobile phoning abroad – and making laws in areas that, according to regular polls, people are keen to see EU action.

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