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EU decision-making procedures


The subsidiarity principle and the role of national parliaments


Introduction
Application of the principle of subsidiarity
Protocol on the role of national parliaments
Summary table

INTRODUCTION

The principle of subsidiarity regulates the exercise of powers. It is intended to determine whether, in an area where there is joint competence, the Union can take action or should leave the matter to the Member States. Compliance with this principle may be monitored in two different ways, either politically or legally.

The draft Constitution introduces a major innovation to a subject which was one of the Convention's primary objectives, suggesting that the national parliaments should be directly involved in monitoring the proper application of the subsidiarity principle.

Convention Members thus propose to strengthen the application of the subsidiarity principle and the active role of national parliaments via:

In the debates within the Convention, the major issue was as follows:
establishing political control for the national parliaments, which would ensure that the Commission did not take initiatives that should not be taken at European level, while at the same time taking care not to prejudice the Commission's right of initiative or slow down the legislative process.
One idea suggested in the debates within the Convention was to establish an annual Congress which would bring together the European Parliament and national parliaments. However, this proposal did not in the end achieve consensus, and was excluded from the final draft.

Two protocols are attached to the Constitution which incorporate and amend the existing protocols introduced following the Amsterdam Treaty:

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APPLICATION OF THE PRINCIPLE OF SUBSIDIARITY

The draft Constitution proposes adapting the Protocol on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality , which was attached to the Treaty establishing the European Community (EC Treaty) in Amsterdam.

The main innovation is the creation of a system for monitoring the application of the principle of subsidiarity which for the first time directly involves the national parliaments. This would allow the national parliaments to publicly notify the European institutions and their own government of any proposal which they felt did not comply with the principle of subsidiarity. Each national parliament can then review the Commission's proposals and submit a reasoned opinion if it considers that the principle of subsidiarity has not been complied with. If one third of parliaments share the same view, the Commission must review its proposal. With regard to Commission proposals and initiatives in matters of freedom, security and justice, the threshold is set at a minimum of one quarter. It may decide to maintain, amend or withdraw its proposal, and must give reasons for its decision.
The Protocol also gives national parliaments the right to bring actions before the Court of Justice, via their Member State, on grounds of infringement of the principle of subsidiarity by a legislative act.

The Protocol confirms that any Commission proposal must be justified with regard to the principle of subsidiarity. The draft Constitution even recommends the use of a 'subsidiarity statement' containing a detailed assessment.

In addition, the Constitution proposes that the Commission send all of its legislative proposals and its amended proposals to the national parliaments of the Member States and to the Union legislator. Upon adoption, legislative resolutions of the European Parliament and positions of the Council of Ministers are to be sent to the national parliaments of the Member States. It also provides that when, in cases of exceptional urgency, the Commission cannot conduct public consultations, it must give reasons for the decision in its proposal.

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PROTOCOL ON THE ROLE OF NATIONAL PARLIAMENTS

The Protocol on the role of national parliaments in the EU , which was annexed to the EC and EU Treaties in Amsterdam, has also been adapted to meet the need for greater transparency and more effective document transmission. It contains more precise obligations on the Commission, the Council of Ministers and the Court of Auditors in terms of the dissemination of information:

In terms of interparliamentary cooperation, no changes have been proposed for the role of the Conference of European Affairs Committees (COSAC). This Conference brings together members of National Parliaments from the National Parliamentary committees responsible for European affairs and continues to have the right to submit contributions, for example concerning subsidiarity, to the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission.

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SUMMARY TABLE

Articles Subject Comments
I-9 Proportionality, subsidiarity and role of national parliaments Significant changes
Protocol on the role of national parliaments Proportionality, subsidiarity and role of national parliaments Significant changes
Protocol on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality Proportionality, subsidiarity and role of national parliaments Significant changes

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The fact sheets are not legally binding on the European Commission. They do not claim to be exhaustive and do not represent an official interpretation of the text of the Convention.


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