27th Mar 2017

National parliaments get say on EU laws

National parliaments are to start getting an unprecedented say on emerging EU laws, with one seasoned observer noting that it could be "revolutionary".

EU leaders on Friday (15 June) passed a text requesting the commission "to duly consider comments by national parliaments" on proposed EU laws.

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In the future the commission will "make all new proposals and consultation papers directly available to national parliaments, inviting them to react so as to improve the process of policy formation", say the conclusions of the two-day summit on Brussels.

The initiative came from the commission itself with president Jose Manuel Barroso making the proposal in May as part of Brussels' attempt to carry out reform that citizens can directly relate to.

It resembles the so-called "yellow card" procedure foreseen in the EU Constitution stating that the commission should review a legislative proposal, if at least one third of national parliaments believe the proposal falls outside EU competencies.

Will parliaments use their new power?

Commenting on the agreement, Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Schussel said "national parliaments are going to have a far greater role to play"

Veteran Danish politician Jens-Peter Bonde said it could "revolutionise" EU law-making but added that this would depend on whether national parliaments make proper use of the facility.

Mr Bonde has long campaigned for national parliaments to have more say, arguing that they are best placed to keep a check on what is emerging from Brussels.

The text also urges the European Parliament and the European Commission "to consistently check the correct application" of two fundamental principles – subsidiarity – whereby the EU only takes action when it can achieve better results than member states acting alone – and proportionality – that EU laws should be kept to a minimum.

For their part national parliaments have also been asked to cooperate when monitoring EU law.

The Danish parliament, which already has a strong say over EU legislation, is set to galvanise its 24 national counterparts towards the end of the month with a special meeting on the issue.


The proposal is not without its critics, however. The draft conclusions of the summit were watered down from saying the commission should "take into account" any comments by national parliaments to "duly consider".

This reflected worries by Belgium, in particular, that the commission's right to initiate laws - a right enshrined in the EU treaties - would be undermined.

Some members of the European Parliament are also likely to be unhappy with the proposal.

When Mr Barroso floated the idea last month, Austrian green MEP Johannes Voggenhuber said "these are intentional, systematic efforts by national governments to strengthen intergovernmental Europe".

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