The role of national parliaments in the EU has been at the centre of a long debate. Since the Maastricht treaty, new powers to the EU level have been accompanied not only by an increasing role of the European Parliament (EP) in the legislative process, but also by a number of declarations and protocols to ensure that national parliaments received the information and documents required to effectively monitor their governments in EU affairs. The Lisbon Treaty extended the guarantees and also included new modes of direct participation. The proper use of the mechanisms in place, namely, the subsidiarity checks, the political dialogue with the Commission and the inter-parliamentary cooperation with the European Parliament, has become of vital importance in view of recent developments in EU economic policy and beyond. The choice for increasing inter-governmentalism in decision-making and the centralisation of the implementing and supervisory powers in the Commission and the Central Bank have raised questions about political accountability and the appropriate involvement of parliaments. However, the extent to which national parliaments should be more involved is also rather controversial.
This essay examines the difficulty of defining and addressing the question of the democratic legitimacy in the EU. It examines the role of the national parliaments in the treaties and explores ways in which they can contribute to improving that legitimacy.
Sonia Piedrafita is a Research Fellow in the Politics and Institutions research unit at CEPS.