Stanley's blog

The German Constitutional Court judgment is likely to provoke parliaments in other Member States to seek ways of controlling their governments when acting in the EU Council. Were they all to choose the Danish model, the consequences for Council negotiations would be dramatic.

Danish ministers, before attending EU Council meetings, require a negotiating mandate from the Europe Committee of the Folketing (parliament) on EU policy questions “of a major importance”. In practice, almost all legal documents are submitted to the committee, prior to their adoption. The committee meets weekly and has a substantial, well qualified, secretariat.

There is a need anyway for national parliaments to buy in to the EU process and to play a much more active role. Unfortunately, MPs have shown little interest and MEPs do not always make them welcome.

What then is the solution?

Conscientious MPs are overworked. A way needs to be found to make it directly worth their while. I was one of three rapporteurs for the myparl.eu project which began in early 2008 but was prematurely terminated by the European Parliament for internal bureaucratic reasons. The principles of this aborted project could well carry the seeds of a long term solution.

An intranet site would enable MPs and MEPs to share information and knowledge about the European, and also enable MPs to share information and knowledge about what they are themselves doing at the national level.

The intranet could include a forum for the exchange of ideas and debate.

Myparl.eu was multilingual, enabling participation by the MPs of all 27 Member States.

MPs would have had easy access to what is happening in the European Parliament and would have enabled MPs to help each other, eg by obtaining information on what has been done or is being done in other national parliaments on the same subject.

From an MP’s point of view, Myparl would have increased his/her visibility, credibility and reputation, and facilitate their input to EU legislation.

Myparl had the firm support of EP President Hans-Gert Pöttering and Commission Information Vice President, Margot Wallström. It is therefore recommended that Myparl be dusted down and be reintroduced, adapted in the light of experience.

A similar networking site for congressmen and women is being launched in the US this autumn.

Politicians need to recognize that new technologies can help communication and policy-making, and have the courage to open their debates beyond mainly elite circles.

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Comments

  1. There is little danger of other Member States following the Danish example. They can see its stultifying impact on the Danish representatives every time they sit in the Council.

    The core problem is not the misplaced competition between MPs and MEPs but the inability of the former to recognise that they must mandate their ministers to negotiate in the Council. This cannot, by definition, mean sending them with riding instructions that they come home with a pre-ordained result, which is what the Danes are forced to attempt.

    This political reality is what guided the outcome of the negotiations between the German political parties in agreeing an amended form of “accompanying legislation” following the decision of the German constitutional court. Ministers will retain full freedom to negotiate subject to some changed monitoring and review powers for the Bundestag and the Bundesrat.

  2. Hi Stanley,

    As you know I left Blogactiv, EurActiv and the myparl project after delivering the inception phase in early 08. You can imagine my disappointment at the outcome.

    The subject of a European public sphere pops up periodically among EU-oriented bloggers. I outlined the original myparl approach in a comment to Julien’s recent post, for example, and set out a few other links here . There are many, many more ideas out there – I recently tweeted Nosemonkey’s proposal to mysociety.org, for ex, and ask everyone to vote for it!

    Is the project you’re now calling for, above, purely closed?

    When myparl (or PINS, as it was called back then) was originally mooted, it was criticised for appearing to be closed, although that wasn’t the Commission’s idea. However, I think the Parliament’s original request to the Commission (buried in a vote somewhere) was for a closed site / walled garden, although this was all before the tender was published and before I turned up. Would you return to that model?

  3. Thank you for the explanation of the Danish Model. At first, I mistook it for the flexicurity concept which is also referred to as Danish Model.

    My question: why would EU-wide adoption of the Danish Model have dramatic consequences for Council negotiations? Will it slow things down? How ministers prepare themselves before attending EU council meetings is up to them and their MP’s, isn’t it?

    Very interesting stuff, keep it up!

  4. Without wishing to hurt the feelings of those involved, or to question their dedication to the idea of Myparl, had it gone ahead it would simply have served to make the situation worse.

    A US citizen understands very well how “Washington” works. They know what the relationship is between the Administration and Congress and the interplay between the Senate and the House of Representatives.

    The problem of the democratic deficit in Europe is the fact that the citizens of Europe do not know how “Brussels” works and, what is worse, those involved seem to do their best to hide it from them. Article 203 of the TEC states “The Council shall consist of a representative of each Member State at ministerial level, authorised to commit the government of that Member State”. What could be clearer! The job of national parliaments is decide the extent of that commitment in respect of particular issues, having regard to the fact that the Council is a negotiating forum subject to decision-making by QMV (i.e. whatever instructions the relevant Minister has, he or she may be voted down) but within the institutional triangle made up of the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament and subject to the control of the ECJ.

    National parliaments cannot insert themselves into the process. It would be the equivalent of the members of a State legislature in the US attempting to do the same. The provisions in the Lisbon Treaty allow national parliaments to block the process but the likelihood of this ever happening is remote. How could the Commission and governments across Europe be unaware of the fact that a proposal would be anathema to a sufficient number? The provisions are pure window-dressing to try mask the unwillingness of governments to face the fact that their citizens, in a Europe of 27, are now very uneasy about what they have signed up to.

    The judgement of the German constitutional court is but a symptom of this malaise.

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