Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Third Report


171. Bridging the gap between citizens and EU decision-making will remain inherently difficult, not only because of the EU's size but above all because of its unique combination of supranational and Member State authority, which means that decision-making will always be more complex than in a State. The more radical of the ideas discussed above would generally tilt the balance of power heavily in a supranational or a Member State direction.

172. However, our rejection of the more radical ideas does not mean that our proposals would not have a substantial impact on the relationship of citizens and EU decision-making. They would do so in two main ways: by increasing openness in the legislative process and by enlarging the role of national parliaments. The role and effectiveness of national parliaments would be increased in the following ways:

  • Greater ability to hold Ministers to account for their activities in the Council;

  • More time to scrutinise EU proposals;

  • Power to refer EU legislation for examination of whether it complies with the principle of subsidiarity;

  • Joint meetings with MEPs to scrutinise the Commission's annual work programme and other matters and question Commissioners and others;

  • A reformed COSAC to act as a strategic body on behalf of national parliaments.

173. The direct involvement of national parliaments in the EU would be increased without cutting across formal lines of accountability, and in ways which would improve the scrutiny of governments at national level and provide opportunities to bridge the gap between citizens and EU decision-making. The extent to which this happened in practice would depend on the actions of each national parliament. However, the potential would exist for a simultaneous strengthening of national parliaments, of democracy and accountability more widely in the EU, and of the EU itself through the reconnecting of citizens and EU decision-making.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 21 June 2002