20 Jun 2022

The extent of the European Parliament’s competence in Common Security and Defence Policy

Steven Blockmans / Carolyn Moser

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In recent years, security and defence policy has become one of the most burgeoning fields of European cooperation, and the war in Ukraine is further accelerating this integration dynamic. Yet, the formal role of the European Parliament (EP) has not been recalibrated to fit this new setting. Indeed, as the intergovernmental blueprint of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) remains unaltered, the EP’s role is limited. In light of the rapidly growing scope of CSDP activities and initiatives, which are likely to further expand given the present geopolitical context, one might wonder whether the way in which parliamentary prerogatives set out in EU law are put into practice is compatible with the Union’s general principles of democracy, sincere cooperation, and institutional balance. This in-depth analysis finds that, by virtue of the fundamental democratic principle underpinning the EU edifice, the EP undeniably has a role to play in the CSDP realm. Despite the EP’s more limited involvement in relation to CSDP than to other policy fields, it cannot plausibly be construed so narrowly as to undermine the democratic principle applying to any decision-making process at the EU level – both ex ante and ex post. Respect for the right to information constitutes the very basis for both the EP’s role in democratic oversight and its ability to hold the Commission, which is increasingly active in the field of defence, to account.

This paper was requested by the European Parliament’s sub-committee on Security and Defence (SEDE).