The Treaty of Lisbon adds to the complexity of the institutional set-up of the European Union. Not only are the heads of state or government members of the European Council and the governments represented in the Council, the two most important institutions, but the national parliaments are offered a privileged position of scrutiny concerning all Union legislation.
The Convention proposed protocols on the role of national parliaments and the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. Following the IGC 2004, the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (OJ 16.12.2004, C 310) contained two annexed protocols:
Protocol (number 1) on the role of national parliaments in the European Union.
Protocol (number 2) on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.
The June IGC 2007 (11218/07) set the tone for the intergovernmental conference leading to the Reform Treaty:
“Concerning national parliaments, their role will be further enhanced compared to the provisions agreed in the 2004 IGC (see Annex 1, Title II):
* The period given to national parliaments to examine draft legislative texts and to give a reasoned opinion on subsidiarity will be extended from 6 to 8 weeks (the Protocols on national Parliaments and on subsidiarity and proportionality will be modified accordingly).
* There will be a reinforced control mechanism of subsidiarity in the sense that if a draft legislative act is contested by a simple majority of votes allocated to national parliaments, the Commission will re-examine the draft act, which it may decide to maintain, amend or withdraw. If it chooses to maintain the draft, the Commission will have, in a reasoned opinion, to justify why it considers that the draft complies with the principle of subsidiarity. This reasoned opinion, as well as the reasoned opinions of the national parliaments, will have to be transmitted to the EU legislator, for consideration in the legislative procedure. This will trigger a specific procedure:
- before concluding first reading under the ordinary legislative procedure, the legislator (Council and Parliament) shall consider the compatibility of the legislative proposal with the principle of subsidiarity, taking particular account of the reasons expressed and shared by the majority of national parliaments as well as the reasoned opinion of the Commission;
- If, by a majority of 55% of the members of the Council or a majority of the votes cast in the European Parliament, the legislator is of the opinion that the proposal is not compatible with the principle of subsidiarity, the legislative proposal shall not be given further consideration. (The Protocol on subsidiarity and proportionality will be modified accordingly).
A new general Article will reflect the role of the national parliaments.”
As a result of British prickliness the introductory phrase “National Parliaments shall contribute actively” has become the bland “National Parliaments contribute actively” in the final English version of the Lisbon Treaty.
Time will tell how active or positive this contribution is going to be, since it seems to rest mainly on extended rights to be informed and enhanced powers to block legislation.
The protocols have been amended.
The Treaty of Lisbon (OJ 17.12.2007, C 306/1) introduces a new Article 8c TEU.
National Parliaments contribute actively to the good functioning of the Union:
(a) through being informed by the institutions of the Union and having draft legislative acts of the Union forwarded to them in accordance with the Protocol on the role of national Parliaments in the European Union;
(b) by seeing to it that the principle of subsidiarity is respected in accordance with the procedures provided for in the Protocol on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality;
(c) by taking part, within the framework of the area of freedom, security and justice, in the evaluation mechanisms for the implementation of the Union policies in that area, in accordance with Article 61c of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and through being involved in the political monitoring of Europol and the evaluation of Eurojust’s activities in accordance with Articles 69g and 69d of that Treaty;
(d) by taking part in the revision procedures of the Treaties, in accordance with Article 48 of this Treaty;
(e) by being notified of applications for accession to the Union, in accordance with Article 49 of this Treaty;
(f) by taking part in the inter-parliamentary cooperation between national Parliaments and with the European Parliament, in accordance with the Protocol on the role of national Parliaments in the European Union.
Title III Provisions on the institutions will follow.