European Parliamentary Democracy and Constitutional Development

The provisions of the Lisbon Treaty and the challenges of the enduring financial crisis in Europe offer both chances and constraints for parliamentary democracy in the EU political system. Questions addressed by this work package comprise: in what way do parliaments develop and (re-)adapt their political, legal and institutional role within the EU? At the same time, the work package also takes a normative perspective: What role for parliaments do we want? How is active participation by EU citizens ensured? How are parliaments able to contribute to alleviating the EU’s democratic deficit?


A first issue deals with the changing rules in national parliaments’ participation to European affairs. The Lisbon treaty brought new provisions, notably on the control of the respect of the subsidiary principle by the European Commission. The fiscal pact also calls for a transnational parliamentary control of budgetary issues with the joint participation of national parliaments and the European Parliament. In addition, the last ratifications of the treaties were an opportunity within several national chambers to money their support through obtaining new powers. All those developments call for an inter-disciplinary assessment of their implementation. As already stressed by some academics, there is actually a risk that those new “tools” become mere “toys” aimed to giving the feeling parliaments are active rather genuinely associating them.


A second line of questioning is more comparative. Even if the parliamentary form is a common element to national democracies in Europe (to the exception of Cyprus), different patterns of political systems can be distinguished within Europe, for instance between purely parliamentary system and semi-presidential ones, or between consensus and majority democracies. As established by the comparative literature, those different kinds of models bring major consequences regarding the role devoted to legislatures, from active policy-making bodies to public forums. This work package aims at questioning the ways national political systems reacted to the financial crisis and the subsequent decisions taken at the EU level. A major issue is indeed whether national parliaments tend to react differently to the on-going challenges and external chocks


Those two series of questions open to a last – more normative – issue about the efficiency of the parliaments in Europe in a context of economic crisis. Many recent or future constitutional developments regard inter-parliamentary cooperation both between national legislatures and between them and the European Parliament. What can be the effect of transnational parliamentary forums in terms of efficiency and legitimacy? What is the capacity of collective egalitarian bodies like parliaments to integrate those kinds of networks? In the end, one aim of this work package is to provide some recommendations on possible constitutional developments that could be welcome both at the national and European level.