Workshop and SUMMIT Kick-off Conference: “Tackling the European Council: Raising Awareness for a Key Institution”

Dates: Thursday January 28th – Friday Janurary 29th, 2016
Place: Brussels (Belgium)
Contact person: Alexander Hoppe (for application and paper abtracts), Linda Dieke (for further information on the Summit Panels)


Additional Information

Find the call for papers here (deadline Sunday, December 6th)



Johannes Pollak (Institute of Advanced Studies, Vienna) - The European Parliament: Adversary or Accomplice of the new intergovernmentalism?



This paper’s objective is to assess whether the institutional upgrading of the European Parliament (EP) can be regarded as an exception to the claims of New Intergovernmentalism or whether the is far more complicit to the New Intergovernmentalism than its supranational rhetoric suggests. We conceive of the EP as a ‘competence maximiser’ that seeks to enhance its authority in the policy-making process relative to that of the member states and to extend its influence to areas in which it has little or no say. We also argue that this strategy is by no means a recent strategy. Since the 1970s, the EP has used its budgetary power as leverage to gain influence in other policy fields. At first sight, our argument seems to run contrary to one of the main tenets of the New intergovernmentalism, but we will see that it partly confirms the hypothesis that the EP is not necessarily hardwired for the support of supranational decision making. Although the EP is often critical to the rise of intergovernmental influence, it is also pragmatic enough to accept that an increasing number of national competences are transferred to the EU level, leading to a growing influence of the European Council, the Council, EU agencies and other informal bodies and working groups. This is not to say that supranationalism isn’t the preferred mode of policy-making for the EP. But it seems to be the case that the EP is more concerned with preserving and/or extending its influence by using its growing competences, as well as its legitimacy, as bargaining chips, rather than forcefully advocating a supranational mode of decision-making. This can also be observed with regard to its legislative function. Since the Treaty of Amsterdam, the EP has gradually ‘informalised’ its co-decision powers thereby strengthening formats such as trilogue meetings in which only a handful of MEPs are involved at the expense of open and transparent discussions in the plenary. The willingness to informalise and seclude its most important legislative procedure seems to confirm the EP’s readiness to act as an accomplice to the New Intergovernmentalism once it has secured its influence. Empirically, we assess how the EP has used its various legislative, budgetary and control functions in two policy areas that can be regarded as key for the New Intergovernmentalism: foreign as well as border and migration policy. 


John-Erik Fossum (ARENA, Oslo) - Representation and democratic legitimacy in complex multilevel systems: comparing the European Union and Canada



What is not well known in Europe is that Canada’s federal state relies on analogous forms of intergovernmental summitry, and has a comprehensive system of intergovernmental relations to regulate federal-provincial relations (Simeon 1972). This feature is distinctive to Canada and renders it particularly apposite to compare with the EU on the issue of executive dominance. But in contrast to the EU, Canada is a fully-fledged parliamentary federation. How the strong executive element in this system of federal governance has affected the democratic legitimacy of its governing institutions should be a matter of considerable interest to Europeans.

Of course, Europeans have introduced some innovative features of inter-parliamentary coordination to rein in executives and facilitate non-trivial elements of democratic accountability in the EU’s complex multilevel institutions. There is little doubt that the recent financial crisis increases the need for such instruments and arrangements. Is the EU capable of designing instruments of democratic accountability and/or legitimacy that can match the legitimacy that Canadian governments claim through direct electoral accountability? Or are the systems of representation unable to catch up with executives and increasingly disconnected from democratic lines of authorization and accountability?

In this article we compare executive-legislative relations within the EU with Canada. We establish the nature and magnitude of executive dominance in each case, and consider whether the two cases might hold lessons for remedying that problem. Our focus is on the actual, not formal, democratic quality.


Fotis Fitsilis (Scientific Service of the Hellenic Parliament ) - Parliamentary control of Governmental actions on the interaction with European organs in the Hellenic Parliament and the National Assembly of Serbia



The role of the national Parliaments in scrutinizing the governments’ actions has been in the academic agenda for a long time. The paper will examine the parliamentary response, in terms of parliamentary control, on the governmental negotiations for three Economic Adjustment Programmes for Greece in the time period from 2010 and 2015. In an additional case study, parliamentary means in the National Assembly of Serbia will be examined in the light of the opening of the negotiation process with the EU. In both cases, an overview of the available means of parliamentary control will be presented, followed by a discussion of their suitability to exercise control of governmental actions in the European organs. Specific cases of parliamentary control will be presented, as well as relevant statistics. 


Alexander Hoppe (University of Cologne) - The European Council and Parliamentary Democracy: Investigating Models of Parliamentary Scrutiny





In the EU’s institutional architecture the European Council is perceived as a winner of the Lisbon Treaty and especially the crisis management of the last years whereas the role of national parliaments has not been reinforced. Though given the early warning mechanism to comment legislative proposal in an early stage of the ordinary legislative procedure most national parliaments have, after a short time of considerable activity, seized to make further use of this opportunity to engage in EU politics. The parliaments of the Euro countries – both from the creditor as form the debtor states – are seen to have lost even more as their fiscal autonomy has been constrained during the financial crisis.
We argue that via the European Council the Heads of State or Government have over the last decades considerably reduced the power of national parliaments. With their incremental or constitutional shift of competences the political leaders of member states have reduced the area of parliamentary autonomy of national parliaments. As intended or unintended consequence the European Council has considerably contributed to turn national parliaments into ‘losers’ of the integration process. Though intergovernmental in its composition and proceedings, the impact of the European Council’s activities, agreements and acts led to a reinforcement of non-majoritarian EU institutions and its own role as a multi-level player. In fundamental issues the European Council has not taken up a role as ‘guardian of national sovereignty’.
In this article, we seek to outline possible mechanisms for parliamentary democratic elements to re-enter EU politics. In order to do so, we develop different theoretical models of parliamentary involvement, focusing on, but not exclusively examining, the role of national parliaments. We show that none of the existing mechanisms ensure genuine democratic scrutiny of European Council decisions, which is why investigating new institutional solutions might be worthwhile given the present centrality of the European Council. 



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