Select Committee on European Communities Third Report

APPENDIX 2 (Continued)


The role of national parliaments

...The Declaration on the Role of National Parliaments in the European Union[16]...should be made binding, by its inclusion in the Treaty, and should specify the period of notice to be given to national parliaments: the Commons have recommended that a minimum period of four weeks' notice should elapse between an official text of a proposal being available in the appropriate language in every national capital and a decision on the document being taken in Council. We concur.(307)

We do not favour giving institutional formality to co-operation between national parliaments. However, we recognise the value of the less formal contacts which have developed between the parliaments of the Union in recent years. In particular, the Conference of European Affairs Committees (CEAC or COSAC) has developed into a useful forum for the exchange of views, ideas and experience, although we agree with the House of Commons European Legislation Committee, which concluded that "[CEAC] has been most successful when it has considered the technique and practice of parliamentary scrutiny rather than engaging in inconclusive political debate".(306)


The role of national parliaments

The Declaration in the Maastricht Treaty is replaced by a protocol which will have binding force. This provides that:

  Commission Green and White papers, and communications, shall be "promptly" forwarded to national parliaments.

  Commission proposals for legislation shall be "made available in good time" so that member governments may transmit them to their parliaments.

  A six week period shall elapse between a legislative proposal, or a proposal under Title VI of the TEU (police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters) being made available by the Commission in all languages to the European Council, and a decision being taken by the Council to adopt an act or a common position, subject to exceptions on grounds of urgency.

On the role of COSAC, the present text of the Protocol gives COSAC the role of commenting to EU institutions on legislative texts-expecially as regards subsidiarity-or on proposals related tot he area of freedom, security and justice which might bear on the rights and freedoms of individuals. The final Amsterdam text introduced an additional sentence underlining that contributions made by COSAC to the discussion of particular proposals do not bind national parliaments. The provisions of the Treaty are entirely permissive and the differences between the Protocol and what COSAC could do anyway, if it wished, are marginal.

16   Declaration 13 to the Treaty on European Union. Back

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