Workshop: “Variation in National Parliamentary Control and Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation in EU Affairs”

Date:  Thursday April 7th – Friday April 8th,  2016
Place: Prague (Czech Republic)
Contact: Jan Karlas


Additional Information

Find the call for papers here… (please note that the deadline has been extended to January 31)




Jens Häsing (Free University Berlin) - Explaining Parliamentary Scrutiny Powers at the Subnational Level: The Case of German Landtage




The study of parliaments in the context of European integration has developed at great pace in the last couple of years. Particularly following the Lisbon Treaty, more comprehensive analyses have started stepping beyond the largely descriptive work that assessed parliament’s efforts to scrutinize governments acting at the European level. Recent studies are comparative and analytical in nature, include assessments of formal parliamentary rights as well as their practical application and sometimes present even longitudinal developments (Winzen 2013, Winzen 2012, Karlas 2011, 2012). Interestingly, while the Lisbon Treaty has implications also for regional parliaments with legislative powers, this field of research is still in nascence. Most studies that deal with regional parliament’s responses to the Treaty-based strengthening of parliamentary scrutiny powers focus on national differences or examine the activities of regional parliaments at the EU level. Using the literature developed for national parliaments, in this paper, we aim to show that substantial differences exist also within one polity regarding the formal rights regional parliaments hold. We analyze how the 16 German regional parliaments (Landtage) have addressed the challenge of controlling their governments in EU affairs. Assessing the adaptation process of the Landtage is particularly interesting given the high number of regional parliaments, their comparatively extensive legislative powers but also because of the serious constraints posed by Germany’s ‘executive federalism’ to regional parliaments. Based on the well-developed literature on EU-related powers of national parliaments, we adapt a number of hypotheses to the regional level. We find that partisan and institutional factors (right-wing governments and vote share in the second chamber) explain the large differences found among Landtage particularly well.


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.


Viera Knutelskáe (Charles University) - National parliaments as true European strong publics?




The role of national parliaments as representatives of the peoples in the EU political system can be challenged on many grounds, such as the minor role of EU affairs in national political campaigns or limited powers of national parliaments regarding EU issues. This paper looks beyond the electoral and competency issues and studies whether the national parliaments can fulfil the role of strong publics within European publics sphere(s) (Fraser 1992), representing and addressing the general publics. Since the national parliaments can serve as a source of legitimacy of the EU both on national level through their scrutiny of national governments and on the European level through relations with EU institutions (or, in other terms, also through the existence of the multi-level parliamentary field, Crum and Fossum 2013), and particularly through the Early Warning Mechanism, both these levels are considered. Whether collective will formation on European issues occurs in the national parliaments individually and among national parliaments collectively can be, at both levels, determined by four factors: (a) participation, (b) inclusiveness (in relation to general publics), (c) deliberation and (d) decision-making. Related issues of openness and communication towards the general public are also considered. After developing the existing conceptual framework, the paper examines these issues on the cases of discussion documents and legislative proposals issuing from the 2015 Agenda for Migration. The paper seeks to advance our understanding of national parliaments as possible individual and aggregate representatives of European general publics by examining their individual and collective ability to carry out sufficiently broad and deep debates and translating them into the output of the EU decision-making process. 


Pia Hansson (University of Iceland) - Iceland and the EU: An Application Withdrawn or Suspended?




In 2011 the Icelandic parliament reformed its laws of procedures. The aim of the reform was to strengthen the parliament vis-à-vis the government. Furthermore, the reform was meant to strengthen the involvement of parliament in setting EU level laws and regulations that apply to Iceland through its membership of the European Economic Area. The reforms require that Parliament is kept informed on all upcoming changes in the EU regulatory framework that applies to Iceland; with the specific aim of making it possible for parliament to have a say in these changes. This is in line with the widely accepted view in Icelandic political circles that parliament guards the sovereignty of the Icelandic people. Iceland applied for EU membership in 2009 with a tight majority in the Icelandic parliament voting for the membership application. In the four years following there was much controversy surrounding the application and after a change in
government in 2013, where the Eurosceptic opposition parties took over, the application was withdrawn. The decision to end the application was never voted on nor formally discussed in the Icelandic parliament as the Minister of Foreign Affairs acted in what he saw as his legal capacity and single-handedly withdrew an application that had received parliamentary backing with the previous government. This unparalell chain of events raised questions in Iceland on both sides of the EU debate. This paper aims to address the question of the power of parliament versus the executive power in Iceland when it comes to major foreign policy decisions by examining the unilateral decision of the Minister of Foreign Affairs to withdraw Iceland´s EU application in 2015.


Estelle Badie (University of Luxembourg) - The Europeanization of national parliaments: The cases of Austria, Finland and Luxembourg




Studies on the Europeanization of national parliaments mostly tend to focus on the development of their institutional capacities and the evolution of their formal rules, rather than on actual practices and individual behaviors. My PhD project aims at studying the evolution of national parliamentary oversight capacities by comparing the three parliaments of Austria, Finland and Luxembourg between the beginning of the ratification process of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2008 until the end of the Luxembourg Council Presidency in 2015. The comparison is mainly based on political and societal similarities between the countries. Mixing historical and sociological institutionalism, my project aims more generally to analyze the national parliaments’ level of involvement in the field of European affairs. Critical junctures, such as the Treaty of Lisbon or the economic crisis, triggered changes both at the European and national levels. More specifically, adopting the circular perspective of the Europeanization process, combining top-down and bottom-up approaches, the project seeks to understand how parliamentarians, as individual actors, shape and take European legislation. The new-institutionalist approach, which emphasizes the close ties between institutions and actors, will help to explain how each of the three compared parliament adapted and reacted to the changes induced by the European integration process. Unpacking the functioning and organization of national parliaments by mixing institutional, behavioral and cognitive approaches enables a more accurate analysis of their Europeanization. 


Martin Kuta & Jan Němec (Parliamentary Institute, Chamber of Deputies, Czech parliament) - Feeble Bodies in Well-Tailored Suits? Composition of the EU Affairs Parliamentary Committees in Visegrad Countries




As indicated by various studies, the level of institutional framework of parliamentary oversight over European Union related issues is in average higher in new member states. According to previous research (e.g. Karlas 2011), the degree of formal scrutiny, however, differ among countries of the so-called Visegrad Group being “very strong” the degree of supervision in Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, and “more weak than strong” in the case of the Czech Republic. In this paper we would like to develop further our previous research (see Kuta, Němec 2015) focused on characteristics of personal composition of the EU affairs parliamentary committees. We assume that personal stability and concentration of work of these committees influences their capacity to exert the oversight and, thus, may have a significant impact on the overall performance of the EU affairs parliamentary scrutiny. Based on original data on personal composition of the EU Affairs parliamentary committees of the Visegrad countries since their accession to the EU we would like to draw conclusions related to their character of membership and bring further attention to strategies of political parties regarding distribution of seats among their MPs in these committees.


Neslihan Temelat (University of Tübingen) - Challenges to inter-parliamentary cooperation and parliamentary oversight in EU affairs: The Case of Turkish Parliament




This paper examines the struggle over reforming the administration system of EU affairs in the Turkish Parliament. The declaration of Turkey’s EU candidate status by the 1999 EU Helsinki Summit initiated a massive reform process by Turkish institutions including the parliament. However, neither the mechanism of inter-parliamentary cooperation through twinning projects carried out with the European parliaments, nor legislative attempts by parliamentary actors have resulted in effective parliamentary oversight with respect to the EU affairs. Despite the recommendations of the twinning project called “Strengthening the capacity of the Turkish Grand National Assembly” conducted between 2007 and 2008, the EU Harmonization Committee responsible for scrutiny of EU-related legislation, has remained as a committee with secondary status incapable of providing mandatory reports. The parliamentary administrative system regarding the EU affairs has also remained decentralized. This study reveals the factors that impede the empowerment of parliamentary institutions and procedures including the EU affairs and standing committees and EU units, with a focus on the role of parliamentary actors such as committee chairs, political party groups and parliamentary administrations with a rational institutionalist approach.   


Robert Zbíral (Palacký University Olomouc) - Comparing the Intensity of Scrutiny for ‘Domestic’ and Implementing Bills: Are National Parliaments Hollowed Out by the European Union?




Research on the role of national parliaments in EU matters dominantly concentrates on ex ante scrutiny and mostly neglects that many parliaments are constitutionally obliged to play an important part in the implementation of EU law into domestic legal orders. The low interest is tied to an argument that even if national parliaments are involved in transposition, they only serve as constrained agents of the EU. This article tests this assumption and inquires if there are differences between parliaments’ scrutiny of bills (laws) transposing EU impulses and ‘purely domestic’ bills. Analysis is based on quantitative data from the Czech Chamber of Deputies and the Slovak National Council. While the project remains essentially exploratory, results suggest that while the implementing bills are debated considerably less than the domestic ones, for the remaining included indicators the intensity of scrutiny for the former group of bills on average does not differ from the latter group. The findings might therefore challenge the thesis that that the implementation process is mere formality that consequently reduces political contestation in the legislatures.


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