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National parliaments

The Conference of European Community Affairs Committees (COSAC), consisting of representatives from relevant committees of the national parliaments and Members of the European Parliament, has met every six months since 1989.

With the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, the European Union acquired competence in areas which had traditionally been a national preserve, such as justice and home affairs. For this reason, the importance of exchanges between national parliaments and the European Parliament was underlined in a declaration on the role of national parliaments in the European Union.

In this declaration appended to the Maastricht Treaty, the national governments were asked to ensure that their parliaments received Commission proposals in good time for information or possible examination. The declaration also recommended that contacts between the European Parliament and the national parliaments should be stepped up in order to make it easier for the national parliaments to be involved in the Community process and to exercise better democratic control.

Under the Treaty of Amsterdam, a Protocol on the role of national parliaments was annexed to the Treaty on European Union. It stipulates that all Commission consultation documents (green and white papers and communications) must be promptly forwarded to the national parliaments.

The national parliaments have a period of six weeks to discuss a legislative proposal, from the date when the Commission makes it available to the European Parliament and the Council up to the date when it is placed on the Council's agenda.

COSAC now also has the right to submit to the Union institutions any contributions which it deems appropriate and to examine any proposal for a legislative instrument relating to the establishment of the area of freedom, security and justice which might have a direct bearing on the rights and freedoms of individuals.

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