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National parliaments of the European Union

The national parliaments of the European Union are those legislatures responsible for each member state of the European Union (EU). They have a certain degree of institutionalised influence which was expanded under the Treaty of Lisbon to include greater ability to scrutinise proposed European Union law.

Relations

Originally, national members of Parliament (MPs) were appointed to the European Parliament (EP) as Member of the European Parliament (MEPs). In 1979 the first direct elections were held, however national MPs still tended to contest these leading to them holding a "dual mandate". As the work load of an MEP increased, the number of MEPs who were also national MPs decreased and since 2009 it has been banned in all member states.[1]

In 1989 MPs from national parliaments and the European Parliament established the Conference of European Community Affairs Committees (COSAC) to maintain contact between national parliaments and the MEPs. COSAC continues to meet every six months and has now gained the right to submit contributions and examine proposals on EU law relating to Justice and Home Affairs.[2] Aside from COSAC, relations between the EP and national parliaments are dealt with by the Conference of Presidents. The EP seeks to keep national parliament's fully informed of the EPs activities and some EP committees regularly invites national MPs to discuss proposals.[3]

However COSAC itself has little institutional structure and is largely leaderless meaning it is difficult for it to exercise its powers. Any concerted response tends to be spontaneous and self organised.[4]

Role and powers

Because the Maastricht Treaty of 1993 expanded the EU's competencies into areas of justice and home affairs, the treaty outlined the importance of exchanges between the European parliament and its national counterparts in a declaration attached to the treaty. This declaration asked national governments to ensure proposals for EU law were passed on to national parliaments with sufficient time for them to be scrutinised by MP and that contacts between these MPs and MEPs, began with COSAC, be stepped up.[2]

This was strengthened under the Treaty of Amsterdam in a protocol stating all European Commission consultation documents be promptly forwarded to national parliaments. They then have a six-week period to discuss legislative proposals, starting from the publication of the proposal to it appearing on the agenda of the Council of the European Union.[2]

The Treaty of Lisbon, in force from 1 December 2009, expanded the role of national parliaments.[5] It sets out a right to information (TEU Article 12, TFEU Articles 70 and 352 and Protocol 1[6]), monitoring of subsidiarity – see below – (TFEU Article 69[6]), scrutinising policy in freedom, justice and security with the ability for a national parliament to veto a proposal (TEFU Articles 81, 85 and 88), taking part in treaty amendment (TEU Article 48[6]) (including blocking a change of voting system to ordinary legislative procedure under the passerelle clause[7]), being involved with enlargement and generally being involved in dialogue with EU institutions (TEU Article 12[6]).

Their power to enforce the principle of subsidiarity is of particular note. The principle is that, unless EU institutions have exclusive power, action will only be taken at a European level if it were to be more effective than acting at a national level. If a national parliament believes this principle has been broken, then this triggers a two-stage procedure: if one-third of national parliaments agree that a proposal breaks the principle, then the commission has to withdraw, amend or maintain it. If the commission maintains its proposal and a majority of parliaments continue to object, then the commission will have to explain its reasons. However it may still continue, as this power does not challenge the legislative role of the Council and European Parliament.[5] The first time the objections-threshold of 1/3 was reached was in 2012 with the Monti II Regulation.[8]

Prior to the Lisbon Treaty's enforcement, COSAC ran tests on the subsidiarity system to test and improve their response time to a question subsidiarity. Tests ended once Lisbon came into force and national parliament's responses to EU legislative proposals have become minimal. Although COSAC is primarily technical, it has been started to become more political especially since the Lisbon Treaty. They have begun to discuss more general political events and foreign policy issues. It is debated whether, in the limited time COSAC meetings have, it should be discussing subjects where it has such limited influence.[4]

Defence policy

As the Western European Union (WEU) was integrated into the European Union's Common Security and Defence Policy, the European Parliament took on a greater role. However, the Assembly of the Western European Union was retained to hold members to account for military missions. With the European Parliament not see as sufficient to take over this role, there was some desire to see the WEU's Assembly retained, rather than abolished as the European Parliament wished. However, with the closure of the WEU (and its assembly) in 2010, there were proposals to ensure that EU cooperation between national parliaments took over its role informally through regular meetings of defence-interested national MPs.[9][10][11] The Lisbon Treaty calls for COSAC to establish a body to scrutinise European foreign and defence policy; however no agreement has been reached.[4]

Differences

There are a number of differences between the national parliaments of member states, owing to the various historical development of each country. 15 states have unicameral parliaments, with the remainders choosing bicameral systems.

Unicameral or lower houses are always directly elected, whereas an upper house may be directly elected (e.g. the Senate of Poland); or indirectly elected, for example, by regional legislatures (e.g. the Federal Council of Austria); or non-elected, but representing certain interest groups (e.g. the National Council of Slovenia).

Furthermore, most states are Parliamentary democracies, hence the executive is drawn from the Parliament. However, in some cases a more presidential system is followed and hence there are separate elections for the head of government and the Parliament, leading to greater discontinuity, yet more independence, between the two branches of government. However, only Cyprus follows a fully presidential system, with France following a semi-presidential system.

Overview

Member State Overall name Lower house Upper house Ratio Name of joint convention Total size of Parliament
Name Size Term length (years) Electoral threshold Electoral system Candidate selection Name Size Term length (years) Electoral threshold Electoral system Candidate selection Method of election Lower to Upper house size
 Austria Austrian Parliament National Council 183 5 4% Party-list proportional representation (Largest remainder)[a]) Open list Federal Council 61 5 or 6, based on the appointing Landtag N/A Appointment by State Landtage, with proportional representation of the Landtag's composition for each State delegation 3 Federal Assembly 244
 Belgium Belgian Federal Parliament Chamber of Representatives 150 5 5% Party-list proportional representation (D'Hondt) Open list Senate 60 5 N/A First-past-the-post (for the German-speaking community's senator)
Proportional representation (for other community/regional and co-opted Senators)
50 indirectly elected by the community and regional parliaments, based on their own election results; 10 co-opted by the remaining senators based on the election results to the Chamber of Representatives 2.5 United Chambers 210
 Bulgaria National Assembly National Assembly 240 4 4% Party-list proportional representation (Largest remainder) Open list 240
 Croatia Croatian Parliament Croatian Parliament 151 4 5% Party-list proportional representation (D'Hondt) Open list 151
 Cyprus House of Representatives House of Representatives 56 5 3.6% Party-list proportional representation (Largest remainder) Open list 56
 Czech Republic Parliament Chamber of Deputies 200 4 5%[b] Party-list proportional representation (D'Hondt) Open list Senate 81 6, renewed by thirds every 2 years N/A Two-round system Direct election by universal suffrage 2.4691358 No special name 281
 Denmark Folketing Folketing 179 4 2% Party-list proportional representation (D'Hondt[c]) Open list 179
 Estonia Riigikogu Riigikogu 101 4 5% Party-list proportional representation (D'Hondt) Open list 101
 Finland Parliament Parliament 200 4 Party-list proportional representation (D'Hondt) Open list 200
 France Parliament National Assembly 577 5 N/A Two-round system Senate 348 6, renewed by halves every 3 years [d] Two-round system (for constituencies which elect 3 or less Senators)
Party-list proportional representation (Highest averages) (for other constituencies)
Closed list[d] Indirect election by National Assembly members and Regional, Departmental, and Municipal councils 1.65804598 Congress of the French Parliament 925
 Germany [e] Bundestag 739 4 5%[f] Mixed-member proportional representation (440 Sainte-Laguë / 299 First-past-the-post) Closed list Bundesrat 69 Same as the appointing state government N/A Appointment by State governments 10.7101449 No joint conventions 808
 Greece Hellenic Parliament Hellenic Parliament 300 4 3% 250 seats by Party-list proportional representation (Largest remainder), 50 seats as a majority bonus to the party that wins a plurality Open list 300
 Hungary National Assembly National Assembly 199 4 5%[g] Scorporo (106 D'Hondt / 93 First-past-the-post) Closed list 199
 Ireland Oireachtas Dáil Éireann 160 5 N/A Single Transferable Vote Seanad Éireann 60 5 N/A Single Transferable Vote 6 seats: Direct election by graduates of Dublin University and the National University of Ireland
43 seats: Indirect election by members of the Dáil and local councils from vocational panels
11 seats: Appointment by the Taoiseach
2.66666667 No special name 220
 Italy Italian Parliament Chamber of Deputies 400 5 3% Parallel voting with mixed single vote (253 Largest remainder[h] / 147 first-past-the-post) Closed list Senate 205[i] 5 (elected senators)
For life (appointed senators and former presidents)
3% Parallel voting with mixed single vote (126 Largest remainder[j] / 74 first-past-the-post) Closed list 200 seats: Direct election by universal suffrage
Up to 5 seats (currently 5): Appointed by the President
Currently 0: Former Presidents ex officio
1.95121951 No special name 605
 Latvia Saeima Saeima 100 4 5% Party-list proportional representation (Sainte-Laguë) Open list 100
 Lithuania Seimas Seimas 141 4 5%[k] Parallel voting (70 Largest remainder / 71 Two-round system) Open list 141
 Luxembourg Chamber of Deputies Chamber of Deputies 60 4 Party-list proportional representation (Hagenbach-Bischoff) Panachage 60
 Malta Parliament House of Representatives 67 5 N/A Single Transferable Vote 67
 Netherlands States General House of Representatives 150 4 0.67% Party-list proportional representation (D'Hondt) Open list Senate 75 4 Party-list proportional representation (D'Hondt) Open list Indirect election by the Provincial Councils; votes are weighted based on the number of voters in each Province 2 No special name 225
 Poland Parliament Sejm 460 4 5%[l] Party-list proportional representation (D'Hondt) Open list Senate 100 4 N/A First-past-the-post Direct election by universal suffrage 4.6 National Assembly 560
 Portugal Assembly of the Republic Assembly of the Republic 230 4 Party-list proportional representation (D'Hondt) Closed list 230
 Romania Parliament Chamber of Deputies 330 4 5%[m] Party-list proportional representation (D'Hondt) Closed list Senate 136 4 5%[m] Party-list proportional representation (D'Hondt) Closed list Direct election by universal suffrage 2.42647059 No special name 466
 Slovakia National Council of the Slovak Republic National Council of the Slovak Republic 150 4 5%[n] Party-list proportional representation (Hagenbach-Bischoff) Open list 150
 Slovenia Slovenian Parliament National Assembly 90 4 4% 88 seats: Party-list proportional representation (Largest remainder[o])
2 seats:[p] Borda count
Open list National Council 40 5 N/A First-past-the-post 22 seats: Indirect election by local councils
18 seats: Indirect election by functional constituencies
2.25 No joint conventions 130
 Spain Cortes Generales Congress of Deputies 350 4 3% Party-list proportional representation (D'Hondt) Closed list Senate 263 4 N/A Partial block voting (directly elected seats)
Proportional representation of the appropriate regional legislature (regional seats)
208 seats: Direct election by universal suffrage
57 seats: Appointment by the regional legislatures
1.64319249 No special name 613
 Sweden Riksdag Riksdag 349 4 4%[q] Party-list proportional representation (Sainte-Laguë) Open list 349

See also

Notes

  1. ^ For constituencies; the D'Hondt method is used to assign leveling seats.
  2. ^ For single parties; the threshold is 10% for coalitions of two parties, 15% for coalitions of three parties, and 20% for coalitions of four or more parties
  3. ^ For constituencies; the Largest remainder method is used to assign leveling seats.
  4. ^ a b For Senators elected by PR; Not applicable to Senators elected by 2RV
  5. ^ The German Constitution defines the Bundestag and Bundesrat as two separate legislative institutions, rather than the lower and upper houses of a bicameral parliament. Therefore, the federal legislature of Germany consists of two unicameral legislative institutions.
  6. ^ Parties which represent minorities or which obtained at least three FPTP seats are exempt
  7. ^ For single parties; the threshold is 10% for coalitions of two parties and 15% for coalitions of three or more parties. Minority parties are exempt.
  8. ^ 245 within Italy and 8 by Italian citizens overseas
  9. ^ 200 elected + currently 5 senators for life
  10. ^ 122 within Italy and 4 by Italian citizens overseas
  11. ^ For single parties; the threshold is 7% for coalitions. Does not apply if parties that pass the threshold receive less than 60% of the vote in total
  12. ^ For single parties; the threshold is 8% for coalitions. Minority parties are exempt.
  13. ^ a b Parties which represent minorities or which obtained at least 20% in at least 4 constituencies are exempt
  14. ^ For single parties; the threshold is 7% for coalitions of two or three parties and 10% for coalitions of four or more parties.
  15. ^ For constituencies; the D'Hondt method is used to assign leveling seats.
  16. ^ One elected by the Italian minority and one by the Hungarian minority
  17. ^ Parties which obtain at least 12% of the vote in a given constituency will always receive seats for that constituency, even if they do not pass the threshold.

References

  1. ^ "2002/772/EC,Euratom Council Decision of 25 June 2002 and 23 September 2002 amending the Act concerning the election of the representatives of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage, annexed to Decision 76/787/ECSC, EEC, Euratom". Official Journal of the European Communities. L 283: 1–4. 21 October 2002.
  2. ^ a b c "Europa glossary: National parliaments". European Union. 2008. Archived from the original on 8 April 2008. Retrieved 27 May 2008.
  3. ^ "Relations with the Member States' national parliaments". European Union. 2008. Retrieved 27 May 2008.
  4. ^ a b c Cooper, Ian (3 October 2011) European parliaments' body facing 'identity crisis', EU Observer
  5. ^ a b "Treaty of Lisbon: A more democratic and transparent Europe". European Union website. 2008. Archived from the original on 29 December 2007. Retrieved 27 May 2008.
  6. ^ a b c d "Consolidated versions of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union". Eur-Lex website. 2008. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  7. ^ Select Committee on European Union Tenth Report: CHAPTER 3: SIMPLIFIED TREATY REVISION AND PASSERELLES, British House of Lords 2008
  8. ^ "National parliaments show 'yellow card' to EU law on strikes". EUobserver. 29 May 2012. Retrieved 14 April 2013.
  9. ^ Statement of the Presidency of the Permanent Council of the WEU on behalf of the High Contracting Parties to the Modified Brussels Treaty, WEU
  10. ^ Conference of MPs Urged To Replace WEU, Defence News
  11. ^ Cold War defence alliance to wind down, AFP
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National parliaments of the European Union
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