This special issue develops a contextual analysis of EU inter-parliamentary cooperation in the post Lisbon Treaty framework. Indeed, it is possible to claim that there are several sources and causes for renewed EU inter-parliamentary cooperation: first, a voluntary one, i.e. the connection with the Lisbon Treaty’s intent to facilitate a wider democratisation objective; second, this time more a reaction than an initiative, the need to counterbalance the institutional outcomes of the economic and financial crisis that shook the world but particularly the eurozone; and, third, the call for an improvement in existing rules and mechanisms to develop even further democratic (read: parliamentary) input in common policies.
The special issue analyses whether current inter-parliamentary mechanisms are suited to react to these challenges. It specifically assesses the practical impact of interparliamentary cooperation on the numerous democratic gaps that still exist in the EU's multi-layered decision-making process. Its objective is to show, beyond the mere sharing of information and the comparison of best practices at a supranational and transnational level, whether existing inter-parliamentary practices contribute to joint parliamentary scrutiny by involving both the EP and the national parliaments of EU member states.
The article draws comparisons between inter-parliamentary cooperation in the European Union and at the international level. It recognises that, notwithstanding a strong international imprint, inter-parliamentary relations in the EU have gradually experienced somewhat distinctive pushes, deeply embedded in the unique constitutional arrangement of the Union. On the one hand, the composite nature of EU constitutionalism, and its impact on parliaments’ relationship with the democratic oversight rationale, have exercised a major influence on the aims and scope of inter-parliamentary cooperation. On the other hand, from the organisational point of view, the distinctive structure of parliamentary representation in the EU has pushed inter-parliamentary arrangements into a multi-layered design, consisting of a large variety of vertical formats. The article argues that inter-parliamentary cooperation in the EU is expected to act as a sui generis practice when compared to apparently similar forms of transnational dialogue amongst parliaments. In theory, at least, the EU sets ideal conditions for fulfilling an authentic collective parliamentary dimension, instrumental to the democratic oversight of the executives. Instead, focusing on the practice, the full potential of EU inter-parliamentarism is not yet fulfilled, for two set of reasons: the unresolved ambiguities over its contribution to parliamentary democracy and the lack of a real capacity to depart from the formats of international parliamentary institutions.
In 2017, a new Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group (JPSG) was created to enable members of the national parliaments of the EU and the European Parliament to exercise joint oversight of the EU agency for police cooperation (Europol). This paper chronicles and explains the lengthy legal and political process leading up to the first meeting of the Europol JPSG in October 2017, and the establishment of its Rules of Procedure at its second meeting in March 2018. In addition, the Europol JPSG is compared to the three EU inter-parliamentary conferences (IPCs) which meet twice-yearly to discuss EU affairs, foreign policy and economic governance. While there are many similarities, the JPSG differs from these others in that it has an explicit mandate to scrutinize, and the target of its scrutiny is a specific EU agency rather than a whole policy field. The JPSG is also distinctive in a number of key respects, including a stronger legal basis, more restrictive membership and participation rules, greater continuity of membership, stronger access to EU officials and documents, a seat on the Europol Management Board and an explicit right to ask oral and written questions. Taken together, these attributes indicate that the JPSG is designed to be an oversight body, rather than merely a discussion forum. Finally, the paper considers the likely future UK role in relation to the Europol JPSG after Brexit.
The EU Speakers’ Conference has experienced a ‘second youth’ after the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon by playing a ‘quasi-constitutional’ role in inter-parliamentary cooperation, and in particular by trying to exercise a rule-making function over the many inter-parliamentary venues of the EU’s system of government. The fulfilment of such a function has certainly not been made any easier as a consequence of the constitutional constraints surrounding the positions of the Speakers and Presidents of the European and Member States’ (MS) Parliaments, with a considerable variety in terms of powers and decision-making capacity among the MS and the EU. Despite these limitations, the ‘quasi-constitutional’ role of the EU Speakers’ Conference has mainly consisted of approving guidelines, if not directly rules of procedure, for other inter-parliamentary venues. It has also been argued that the coordinating function of the EU Speakers’ Conference can be much more effective when looking at its ‘quasi-constitutional’ role, and also in its function of joint parliamentary scrutiny in the EU, if it is aimed at enhancing the rational organisation of inter-parliamentary activities in terms of timing, agendas and ex-post supervision of the results, in the absence of any other possible alternative to the Speakers’ leadership.
This contribution proposes a framework of transnational parliamentarism to study inter-parliamentary cooperation, and applies it to the interparliamentary conference on CFSP/CSDP. It asks to what extent the IPC’s functioning reflects its constitutive intergovernmental logic, or whether its behaviour in practice might be guided by a transnational logic, hence becoming something more than just the parliamentary mirror of an intergovernmental cooperation framework. To this end we outline three functions that are brought forward by transnational parliamentarism: policy-making, collective accountability and cooperation, and investigate to which extent these logics can be observed in the functioning of the IPC CFSP/CSDP. Applying the framework reveals a nuanced picture of an inter-parliamentary cooperation framework which to some extent goes beyond purely intergovernmental functions of domestic accountability and representation, and also includes the performance of policy-making and parliamentary cooperation functions.
The House of Lords is the world’s longest-established and probably best-known second chamber. Wholly unelected, with most members appointed for life, it appears a vestige of the ‘elite’ form of bicameralism once common throughout Europe. Hence calls for major reform are commonplace. However successful changes have been piecemeal and rare. Meanwhile the UK is not federal, but is nonetheless a ‘union state’, comprising the territories of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, each with its own distinct governing arrangements. These were most recently boosted by the 1997 Labour government’s devolution programme. Hence for decades, and particularly the last 20 years, devolution and Lords reform have both been on the UK’s political agenda. Throughout this time attempts to create a ‘second chamber of the nations and regions’ have repeatedly failed. This paper reviews the proposals made, and the obstacles they faced - drawing lessons for Britain, and territorial bicameralism more widely.
According to many legal and political scientists the Austrian Bundesrat is generally considered to be a paradigmatic example of a politically and legally weak second chamber embedded in a strongly centralised federal system. This view is justified. However, there is the need for a more differentiated view with regard to Austria’s federal system and its second chamber.
The paper contends that bicameral systems, irrespective of their differences in composition and powers, are unfit to represent territorial interests in the national decisionmaking process, except in some residual cases. What subnational entities seek is participation rather than representation. This is why alternative, executive-based institutions in which also the national government is present are mushrooming and second chambers are ineffective as territorial bodies. Furthermore, there is a clear trend to move from bicameralism to bilateralism, meaning that instead of taking advantage of ineffective multilateral institutions, strong subnational units try to channel their claims through bilateral instruments. Overall, the unresolved dilemma of subnational representation has little to do with the architecture of second chambers and rather lays in the tension between individual and collective representation.
Belgium was established in 1830 as a unitary state with a bicameral parliament, with symmetrical powers for the upper and the lower house. While federalism and bicameralism are often considered a pair, the Belgian system shows an inverse relationship. The Senate gradually turned into a house representative of the sub-states, but its powers declined inversely proportional to the level of decentralisation of the Belgian state. This paper inquires how the dismantling of the Belgian Senate fits in the increasingly devolutionary nature of the Belgian state structure. First, it nuances the link between bicameralism and federalism: bicameralism is an institutional device for federalism, but not by necessity, and only under specific conditions. The official narrative is that the Belgian Senate was reformed to turn it into a house of the sub-states in line as a federal principle, but in reality the conditions to fulfil this task are not fulfilled. Instead, the paper holds that bicameralism in Belgium is subordinate to the needs of multinational conflict management, and that complying with the federative ideal of an upper house giving voice to the collective needs of the sub-states would stand in the way of the evolution of the Belgian system towards confederalism based on two major linguistic groups.
This article inspects discursive shifts in the EU’s cultural policy and how these relate to the four ‘generations’ of EU cultural programmes: Raphaël, Ariane, Kaleidoscope; Culture 2000; Culture 2007; and the current Creative Europe programme. This paper therefore accounts for a ‘discursive journey’ that started in the 1970s and culminated with Article 128 in the Maastricht Treaty, which formally constituted the EU’s cultural policy. The article reveals that there can be detected certain shifts in discourses concerning the EU’s cultural programmes, but these shifts are aligned to older discourses within the cultural sector which, prior to the Maastricht Treaty, applied implicit cultural interventions. These therefore represented ‘camouflaged’ cultural understanding and appliances, which were instrumental and promoted economically and politically induced discourses. The major shift detected in the recent Creative Europe programme is a step away from discourses that facilitate the political construction of a ‘people’s Europe’, thereby utilising further discourses that promote aims which adhere to the Union’s Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.