Saturday, June 17, 2006
Another opportunity to be ignored
A particularly ill-informed piece on the website of EU Observer tells us: "National parliaments get say on EU laws".
Chirps Honor Mahony, who really should know better: "National parliaments are to start getting an unprecedented say on emerging EU laws, with one seasoned observer noting that it could be 'revolutionary'."
This is one of the outcomes of the European Council which has requested the commission "to duly consider comments by national parliaments" on proposed EU laws. In the future the commission will "make all new proposals and consultation papers directly available to national parliaments, inviting them to react so as to improve the process of policy formation", say the conclusions of the two-day summit on Brussels.
The genesis of this lies with president José Manuel Barroso, who made the proposal in May, supposedly "as part of Brussels' attempt to carry out reform that citizens can directly relate to." It resembles the so-called "yellow card" procedure proposed in the EU Constitution stating that the commission should review a legislative proposal, if at least one third of national parliaments believe the proposal falls outside EU competencies.
Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Schussel is cited as saying that "national parliaments are going to have a far greater role to play" and Jens-Peter Bonde is the one who says it could "revolutionise" EU law-making - depending on "whether national parliaments make proper use of the facility."
If Bonde stopped to think for one minute, he would appreciate that parliaments – in theory at least – already have sovereign powers and can, if they are minded, reject any EU legislation. They can demand clarification, both directly and through their own governments, and are entirely free to dictate and enforce their own scrutiny arrangements.
Thus, to give parliaments a "power" they already have, and then to suck them into a procedure determined by the commission, subtly undermines them, turning them into supplicants, subordinate to an unelected supranational authority.
Yet, all we get by way of criticism recorded by Honor Mahony is a complaint that the European Council draft conclusions were watered down. Originally, the proposal was that the commission should "take into account" any comments by national parliaments, when it now reads that it should "duly consider".
And, since the commission, under the procedure of its own devising, is by no means obliged to change any of its proposals once it has "taken into account" any comments, one commentator from the Ind-Dem group – which funds EU Observer - remarked that this is simply another opportunity to be ignored.