Book chapter

National Parliaments and the European Union (2019)

in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics

Abstract

The role and position of national parliaments in European Union (EU) affairs have undergone a long, slow, and sometimes rocky, but overall rather remarkable, development. Long regarded as the victims of the integration process, they have continuously strengthened their institutional prerogatives and have become more actively involved in EU affairs. Since the Lisbon Treaty, national parliaments even have a formal and direct role in the European legislative process, namely, as guardians of the EU's subsidiarity principle via the so-called early warning system.To what extent institutional provisions at the national or the European level provide national parliaments with effective means of influencing EU politics is still a largely open question. On the one hand, national parliaments still differ with regard to their institutional prerogatives and actual engagement in EU politics. On the other hand, the complex decision-making system of the EU, with its multitude of actors involved, makes it difficult to trace outcomes back to the influence of specific actors. Yet it is precisely this opacity of the EU policymaking process that has led to an emphasis on the parliamentary communication function and the way national parliaments can contribute to the democratic legitimacy of the EU by making EU political decisions and processes more accessible and transparent for the citizens.This deliberative aspect is also often emphasized in approaches to the role of national parliaments in the EU that challenge the territorially defined, standard account of parliamentary representation. Taking the multilevel character of the EU as well as the high degree of political and economic interdependence between the member states into account, parliamentary representation is conceptualized as extending beyond the nation-state and as shared across the EU, with a strong emphasis on the links between parliaments through inter-parliamentary cooperation and communication as well as on the representation of other member states' citizens interests and concerns in parliamentary debates. Empirical research is still scarce, but existing studies provide evidence for the development of an increasingly dense web of formal and informal interactions between parliaments and for changes in the way national parliamentarians represent citizens in EU affairs.