Select Committee on European Union Seventh Report


APPENDIX 3

Evidence from National Parliaments on the Second Chamber

The Committee contacted colleagues in other member state parliaments to find out what they were doing on the Second Chamber, and to request any contributions they wished to make. The following is a summary of the replies received by June 2001.

Austria

The consensus in the Austrian parliament is against the creation of a European Second Chamber, but for various different reasons. The SPÖ (Social Democratic Party) believes that a two-chamber system already exists, with the Council and the EP. They doubt the practicality of carrying out a dual mandate, and would prefer to foster co-operation between the European Parliament and the national parliaments. The FPÖ (Freedom Party) considers that a meeting of national parliaments held in Brussels, Strasbourg or commuting between capital cities, would not improve the link to the European citizens. The party would prefer to see representatives of national parliaments participating in the Council meetings. The ÖVP (Austrian Peoples Party) is in favour of enhancing the role of national parliaments, but not at present by the creation of a new institution. The ÖVP considers that involvement of national parliaments in the process of preparing for council meetings at a national level can also provide democratic legitimacy. The ÖVP does not rule out any kind of Second Chamber categorically. The Green Party advocates the transformation of the Council of Ministers into a Second Chamber on the basis of one state one vote. The Senate would share its legislative powers with the EP, and this would provide an effective remedy against the democratic deficit, but would also introduce more openness and transparency into the Council's proceedings.

France

The Senate has produced a full report on the European Second Chamber - see Summary in Appendix 4.

The National Assembly has not considered the question of a Second Chamber during this legislature (since 1997), but in the previous legislature, several reports and documents from the Assembly's Committee on European Affairs were broadly in favour of the establishment of a Second Chamber. A report on the 1996 IGC, written by Mmes' Catala and Ameline, proposed a "inter-parliamentary Committee", essentially a re-inforced version of COSAC, which would meet on a monthly basis, primarily to monitor the application of the principle of subsidiarity.

Germany

The German Bundesrat has taken no written evidence on the topic of a Second Chamber.

Luxembourg

The Luxembourg Chamber of Deputies is organising a large inquiry into the future of Europe in the autumn, and will produce a report towards the end of this year. This will cover the question of a possible Second Chamber but no conclusions have yet been reached.

Spain

The EU Joint Committee is establishing a sub-Committee on the future of the EU, and this will take a position on the European Second Chamber later in the year.

Sweden

The Swedish Parliament's Joint Committee on the Constitution and Foreign Affairs has issued a report on future issues facing the EU. This touches on the question of parliamentary influence in the EU. Although the idea of a Second Chamber is mentioned, no firm conclusion is drawn. The report states that "these proposals should be evaluated in the continuing European discussion in relation to the experience of parliamentary co-operation and to issues of electoral participation and legitimacy, but also to the more general issue of the balance between supranational and inter-governmental aspects of the Union". The report also considers the parliamentary dimension in the second pillar, and comes out against the idea of a European inter-parliamentary assembly to monitor this area. It argues that this would create yet another level between the voters and the body that is to be influenced or controlled, and from the point of view of democracy and representation this would be somewhat ill-advised.


 
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