Relations between the EU and National Parliaments
For the first time, the Lisbon Treaty gives Parliaments of EU Member States the possibility to directly influence the decision-making processes on an EU level. The main aim is two-fold: to increase the democratic legitimacy of the EU by ensuring that democratically-elected representatives of Member States take part in the making of EU legislation, but also to make sure that the EU acts only in cases where it can bring an added value. Therefore, the main tasks of national parliaments are to generate debate on European affairs at national level and to be the guardians of the principle of subsidiarity. The principle of subsidiarity ensures that decisions will not be taken at European level if they can be taken efficiently at regional or local level (except in the areas which fall within EU exclusive competence).
The Lisbon Treaty for the first time specifically acknowledges the role of national parliaments in the EU. Article 12 of the Treaty of the European Union (TEU) reads: “National parliaments contribute actively to the good functioning of the Union”. The enhanced role of national parliaments in the European decision-making process can be divided into three categories:
Information – national parliaments should be informed about a piece of legislation at proposal stage
Active participation – in certain cases outlined in the Treaty, national parliaments can actively participate in decision-making processes at EU level
Objection – national parliaments have the right to voice objections to EU policy proposals and the EU has to take these objections into consideration These categories indicate the crucial importance given to all levels of involvement of national parliaments in European policy-making.
The changes brought by the Lisbon Treaty give national parliaments the opportunity to initiate a timely national debate on European questions. Furthermore, they enable the national parliaments to consider whether the principle of subsidiarity has been respected. Altogether, this allows a constructive involvement in the European decision-making process.
The EPP Group recognised the importance of continuous debate with national parliaments very early on and holds regular meetings with national parliamentarians elected on lists of parties that belong to the EPP family.
We have established different networks between Members of the European Parliament and national Members of Parliament from the EPP political family. These inter-parliamentary meetings are crucial for generating political debate on Europe-related matters given the diverse national dimensions. The most important gatherings are the Summits of EPP Group Chairmen. In addition, we hold meetings of the EPP Group Network of Parliamentarians working on European Affairs and the Young Members Network.
What the Group organises
The Summits bring together all EPP parliamentary group chairs in the EU national parliaments. They meet twice a year in Brussels to form a common view on the EPP Group's political perspectives and priorities and to discuss topical European issues. The Presidents of the European Parliament and the European Commission, and European Commissioners if they belong to the EPP family, can be invited to participate at the Summits.
The EU Affairs Network assembles EPP Group Members of the European Parliament and the national Members of Parliament spokesperson for European affairs in their political groups. These are either the chairs or vice-chairs of the national parliamentary committees dealing with EU affairs or the spokespersons of the chairs of parliamentary groups. They meet on a regular basis. The aim is to debate current political issues in a more detailed way to further shape the EPP Group’s mutual understanding and ways of working together.
The EPP Group Young Members Network consists of Members of national parliaments from the EPP political family and EPP Group Members of the European Parliament (MEP) up to the age of 36 at the time of their election. It is co-ordinated by Pablo Zalba MEP. A list of around 300 members in national parliaments and the European Parliament has been compiled. Young members discuss important policy challenges for the future.
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What the Parliament organises
Joint Parliamentary Meetings are meetings on broad political topics which are organised and chaired jointly by the Parliament of the country holding the EU Presidency and the European Parliament. Very often, the topics of the meeting are chosen among the priorities of the EU Presidency. An EPP political family preparatory meeting is organised before each JPM meeting.
Joint Committee Meetings are meetings on sectoral issues. They are organised and chaired jointly by the relevant Committees of the Parliament of the Member State holding the EU Presidency and the relevant Committee of the European Parliament. Moreover, EP Committees organise hearings, conferences or thematic visits to which representatives from national parliaments are invited, where relevant. The presence of decision-makers from national and European institutions leads, on the one hand, to improved inter-institutional cooperation and, on the other hand, to the creation of a framework that helps disseminate information at national and local levels.
The “Conference of Community and European Affairs Committees of the Parliaments of the European Union” (COSAC) is a platform for cooperation between committees of the national parliaments dealing with European affairs as well as representatives from the European Parliament. It meets bi-annually.
The Conference gathers together Speakers from the Parliaments of EU Member States and the President of the European Parliament. At its annual meetings, the Speakers discuss in general EU matters and in particular inter-parliamentary EU activities.