Why National Parliaments in the EU Should Be Empowered

big-benOn Monday 12 October 2015, a panel of experts will to discuss the role of national parliaments in the debate on the EU at an event at the UCL European Institute. Here, Sandra Kröger, lecturer in politics of the University of Exeter, talks about the ‘democratic disconnect’ in the European Union between domestic and EU-level political institutions. She proposes that national parliaments can, and should, be empowered, but also that national parliamentarians need to make better use of the powers already available to them by engaging more closely with EU affairs.

In early 2013, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has publicly announced a referendum on European Union (EU) membership by the end of 2017 should he be re-elected in 2015. He has since linked the now certain referendum to the re-negotiation and eventual re-location of certain competences to the UK as well as the possibility, for the UK, to opt out of specific policies. Just how convincing such demands are in the light of the recent British government’s own balance of competences review not finding any competences that should be returned to Westminster is open to debate. Be that as it may, one central demand of Cameron is a ‘bigger and more significant role’ for National Parliaments (NPs), reflecting a desire for more national democracy. Continue reading

MPs are from Mars, peers are from Venus: Westminster and the EU

big-benIn this post, Dr Julie Smith, Director of the European Centre at Polis at the University of Cambridge and member of the House of Lords, examines how attitudes towards parliamentary scrutiny of EU affairs differs between the House of Commons and the House of Lords. How do other member state parliamentarians balance the local needs of their electorates with those of EU-level governance and are there any lessons to be learned for the UK Parliament in the run-up to the EU referendum?

If you listen to debates on the EU in the two chambers of the British parliament, you could be forgiven for thinking you have landed on two different planets.

In the Commons, plenary debates on Europe are heated and often hostile, with Euroscepticism the order of the day. Few MPs display great insight into matters European but they do express themselves with passion.

Meanwhile in the Lords the vast majority of members are pro-European, with debate harking back to another age when Britain’s membership of the EU was thought to be settled and broadly beneficial. Continue reading

Exploring ‘Exploratory Governance’: the Hertie Governance Report 2015

With the Eurozone crisis not yet over, Albert Weale, Professor of Political Theory and Public Policy at UCL, reviews the Hertie Governance Report 2015 as it analyses the key issues facing the European Institutions in terms of economic governance. As ad hoc solutions are found to deal with urgent matters, what does this mean for political accountability and reform in the EU, and what lessons have been learnt?

The European financial and economic crisis since 2008 has overturned the normal workings of the central institutions of the European Union. The policies and practices established in the Maastricht Treaty and the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) have been transformed in a seemingly endless series of improvised measures. National budgetary and economic policy planning are coordinated through the European Semester. Stronger preventive and corrective procedures are in place through a reinforced SGP. Member States now have a treaty requirement to have automatic correction mechanisms for budgetary deficits. The European Stability Mechanism operates as the de facto bailout mechanism for national governments, a function at one time prohibited by the Maastricht Treaty. The European Central Bank is now engaged in outright monetary transactions, a policy that comes close to monetizing government debt. Banking supervision has been reformed.

Continue reading