National parliaments of the European Union

National parliaments of the European Union
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The national parliaments of the European Union are those legislatures responsible for each member state of the European Union (EU). They have a certain degree of institutionalised influence which was expanded under the Treaty of Lisbon to include greater ability to scrutinise proposed EU law.



Originally, national members of Parliament (MPs) were appointed to the European Parliament (EP) as Member of the European Parliament (MEPs). In 1979 the first direct elections were held, however national MPs still tended to contest these leading to them holding a "dual mandate". As the work load of an MEP increased, the number of MEPs who were also national MPs decreased and since 2009 it has been banned in all member states.[1]

In 1989 MPs from national parliaments and the European Parliament established the Conference of European Community Affairs Committees (COSAC) to maintain contact between national parliaments and the MEPs. COSAC continues to meet every six months and has now gained the right to submit contributions and examine proposals on EU law relating to Justice and Home Affairs.[2] Aside from COSAC, relations between the EP and national parliaments are dealt with by the Conference of Presidents. The EP seeks to keep national parliament's fully informed of the EPs activities and some EP committees regularly invites national MPs to discuss proposals.[3]

However COSAC itself has little institutional structure and is largely leaderless meaning it is difficult for it to exercise its powers. Any concerted response tends to be spontaneous and self organised.[4]

Role and powers

Because the Maastricht Treaty of 1993 expanded the EU's competencies into areas of justice and home affairs, the treaty outlined the importance of exchanges between the European parliament and its national counterparts in a declaration attached to the treaty. This declaration asked national governments to ensure proposals for EU law were passed on to national parliaments with sufficient time for them to be scrutinised by MP and that contacts between these MPs and MEPs, began with COSAC, be stepped up.[2]

This was strengthened under the Treaty of Amsterdam in a protocol stating all European Commission consultation documents be promptly forwarded to national parliaments. They then have a six week period to discuss legislative proposals, starting from the publication of the proposal to it appearing on the agenda of the Council of the European Union.[2]

The Treaty of Lisbon, in force from 1 December 2009, expanded the role of national parliaments.[5] It sets out a right to information (TEU Article 12, TFEU Articles 70 and 352 and Protocol 1[6]), monitoring of subsidiarity – see below – (TFEU Article 69[6]), scrutinising policy in freedom, justice and security with the ability for a national parliament to veto a proposal (TEFU Articles 81, 85 and 88), taking part in treaty amendment (TEU Article 48[6]) (including blocking a change of voting system to ordinary legislative procedure under the passerelle clause[7]), being involved with enlargement and generally being involved in dialogue with EU institutions (TEU Article 12[6]).

Their power to enforce the principle of subsidiarity is of particular note. The principle is that, unless EU institutions have exclusive power, action will only be taken at a European level if it were to be more effective than acting at a national level. If a national parliament believes this principle has been broken, then this triggers a two stage procedure: if one third of national parliaments agree that a proposal breaks the principle, then the Commission has to withdraw, amend or maintain it. If the Commission maintains its proposal and a majority of parliaments continue to object, then the Commission will have to explain its reasons. However it may still continue, as this power does not challenge the legislative role of the Council and European Parliament.[5]

Prior to the Lisbon Treaty's enforcement, COSAC ran tests on the subsidiarity system to test and improve their response time to a question subsidiarity. Tests ended once Lisbon came into force and national parliament's responses to EU legislative proposals have become minimal. Although COSAC is primarily technical, it has been started to become more political especially since the Lisbon Treaty. They have begum to discuss more general political events and foreign policy issues. It is debated whether, in the limited time COSAC meetings have, it should be discussing subjects where it has such limited influence.[4]

Defence policy

As the Western European Union (WEU) was integrated into the European Union's Common Security and Defence Policy, the European Parliament took on a greater role. However, the Assembly of the Western European Union was retained to hold members to account for military missions. With the European Parliament not see as sufficient to take over this role, there was some desire to see the WEU's Assembly retained, rather than abolished as the European Parliament wished. However with the closure of the WEU (and its assembly) in 2010, there were proposals to ensure that EU cooperation between national parliaments took over its role informally through regular meetings of defence-interested national MPs.[8][9][10] The Lisbon Treaty calls for COSAC to establish a body to scrutinise European foreign and defence policy; however no agreement has been reached.[4]


There are a number of differences between the national parliaments of member states, owing to the various historical development of each country. 14 states have unicameral parliaments, with the remainders choosing bicameral systems.

Unicameral or lower houses are always directly elected, whereas an upper house may be directly elected (e.g. the Senate of Poland); or have a more limited electorate, such as a higher voting as (e.g. the Italian Senate); or indirectly elected, for example, by regional legislatures (e.g. the Federal Council of Austria); or non-elected, but representing certain interest groups (e.g. the National Council of Slovenia); or non-elected (though by and large appointed by elected officials) as a remnant of a non-democratic political system in earlier times (as in the House of Lords in the United Kingdom).

Furthermore, most states are Parliamentary democracies, hence the executive is drawn from the Parliament. However in some cases a more presidential system is followed and hence there are separate elections for the head of government and the Parliament, leading to greater discontinuity, yet more independence, between the two branches of government. However only Cyprus follows a fully presidential system, with France following a semi-presidential system.


Member state Parliamentary
Overall name of legislature
Lower house (members) Upper house (members)
 Austria bicameral Federal Assembly (Bundesversammlung)[11]
National Council (Nationalrat)[11] (183) Federal Council (Bundesrat)[11] (62)
 Belgium bicameral[I] Federal Parliament (Federaal Parlement / Parlement Fédérale / Föderales Parlament)
Chamber of Representatives (Kamer van Volksvertegenwoordigers
/ Chambre des Représentants / Abgeordnetenkammer)
[12][13] (150)
Senate (Senaat / Sénat / Senat)[14] (71)[II]
 Bulgaria unicameral National Assembly (Народно събрание)[15] (240)
 Cyprus unicameral House of Representatives (Βουλή των Αντιπροσώπων / Temsilciler Meclisi)[16] (59)
 Czech Republic bicameral Parliament (Parlament)
Chamber of Deputies (Poslanecká sněmovna)[17] (200) Senate (Senát)[18] (81)
 Denmark unicameral Parliament (Folketinget)[19] (179)
 Estonia unicameral State Assembly (Riigikogu)[20] (101)
 Finland unicameral Parliament (Eduskunta / Riksdag)[21] (200)
 France bicameral Parliament (Parlement) / Congress (Congrès)[22]
National Assembly (Assemblée nationale)[23] (577) Senate (Sénat)[24][25] (343)[III]
 Germany bicameral [IV]
Federal Diet (Bundestag)[26] (622)[V] Federal Council (Bundesrat)[27] (69)
 Greece unicameral Assembly of the Greeks (Βουλή των Ελλήνων)[28] (300)
 Hungary unicameral National Assembly (Országgyűlés)[29] (386)
 Ireland bicameral Oireachtas (National Parliament")[VI]
Dáil Éireann (House of Representatives)[VI] (166) Seanad Éireann (Senate)[VI] (60)
 Italy bicameral Parliament (Parlamento)[30][31]
Chamber of Deputies (Camera dei Deputati)[32] (630) Senate of the Republic (Senato della Repubblica)[31][33] (315)[VII]
 Latvia unicameral Diet (Saeima)[34] (100)
 Lithuania unicameral Diet (Seimas)[35] (141)
 Luxembourg unicameral Chamber of Deputies (Chambre des Députés / Abgeordnetenkammer / Châmber vun Députéirten)[36][37] (60)
 Malta unicameral House of Representatives (Kamra tad-Deputati)[38] (69)[VIII]
 The Netherlands bicameral States–General (Staten–Generaal)[39]
Second Chamber (or House of Representatives; Tweede Kamer)[40] (150) First Chamber (or Senate; Eerste Kamer)[41] (75)
 Poland bicameral National Assembly (Zgromadzenie Narodowe)[IX]
Diet (Sejm)[42] (460) Senate (Senat)[43] (100)
 Portugal unicameral Assembly of the Republic (Assembleia da República)[44] (230)
 Romania bicameral Parliament (Parlamentul)[45]
Chamber of Deputies (Camera Deputaţilor)[46] (332) Senate (Senat)[47] (137)
 Slovakia unicameral National Council (Národná rada)[48] (150)
 Slovenia bicameral Parliament (Parlament)
National Assembly (Državni zbor)[49] (90) National Council (Državni svet)[50] (40)
 Spain bicameral General Courts (Cortes Generales)
Congress of Deputies (Congreso de los Diputados)[51] (350) Senate (Senado)[52] (259)
 Sweden unicameral Diet (Riksdagen)[53] (349)
 United Kingdom bicameral[X] Parliament[54]
House of Commons[54] (646) House of Lords[54] (740)
I^ : Due to Belgium's complex federal structure the Brussels Regional Parliament (Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Parlement / Parlement de la Région de Bruxelles-Capitale)[55][56] (89, regional assembly), Flemish Parliament (Vlaams Parlement)[57] (124, regional and community assembly), the Walloon Parliament (Parlement wallon)[58][59] (75, regional assembly), the Parliament of the French Community (Parlement de la Communauté française)[60] (94, community assembly) and the Parliament of the German-speaking Community (Parlament der Deutschsprachigen Gemeinschaft)[61] (25, community assembly) have competences in federal legislation that affects their interests.
II^ : In addition to the 71 elected senators, the ruling monarch's children (or, in case there are none, her or his siblings) are also entitled to sit in the Senate after reaching the age of 18 and entitled to vote after reaching the age of 21 as senators by law (senator van rechtswege / sénateur de droit / Senator von Rechts wegen), although they do not use the right to vote by constitutional convention. There are currently three such senators.
III^ : The number of Senators will gradually increase to 348 with the 2011 Senate election to reflect changes in French demography.
IV^ : While there is a Federal Assembly (Bundesversammlung) similar to the Austrian Federal Assembly, it is not simply a joint session of the Federal Diet and the Federal Council and as such not the overall name of the legislature.
V^ : Technically, the Federal Diet only has 598 members; the additional twenty-four seats are overhang seats resulting from the 2009 election.
VI^ : The Irish names are used in the English-language version of the Constitution of Ireland,[62] and generally in English-language speech and writing in Ireland.[63][64][65] The English glosses given are the descriptions in the Constitution.[62]
VII^ : In addition to the 315 elected members, there are currently seven senators for life (senatore a vita); these include three former Italian Presidents, who are ex officio senators for life, as well as four senators appointed by the President "for outstanding patriotic merits in the social, scientific, artistic or literary field". There can only be five appointed senators in addition to the ex officio ones at any one time.
VIII^ : Technically, the House of Representatives only has 65 members; the additional four seats are overhang seats to ensure a majority of MPs for the party which gained the most votes in the 2008 election.
IX^ : The name Zgromadzenie Narodowe is only used on the rare occasions when both houses sit together.
X^ : In legislation which affects the overseas territory of Gibraltar, its Parliament[66] (17) also has legislative competences.

See also


  1. ^ "Council Decision of 25 June 2002 and 23 September 2002 amending the Act concerning the election of the representatives of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage, annexed to Decision 76/787/ECSC, EEC, Euratom". Official Journal of the European Communities L 283: 1–4. 21 October 2002. 
  2. ^ a b c "Europa glossary: National parliaments". European Union. 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  3. ^ "Relations with the Member States’ national parliaments". European Union. 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  4. ^ a b c Cooper, Ian (3 October 2011) European parliaments' body facing 'identity crisis', EU Observer
  5. ^ a b "Treaty of Lisbon: A more democratic and transparent Europe". European Union website. 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Consolidated versions of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union". Eur-Lex website. 2008. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  7. ^ Select Committee on European Union Tenth Report: CHAPTER 3: SIMPLIFIED TREATY REVISION AND PASSERELLES, British House of Lords 2008
  8. ^ Statement of the Presidency of the Permanent Council of the WEU on behalf of the High Contracting Parties to the Modified Brussels Treaty, WEU
  9. ^ Conference of MPs Urged To Replace WEU, Defence News
  10. ^ Cold War defence alliance to wind down, AFP
  11. ^ a b c Parlamentsdirektion (2006-06-27). "The Austrian Parliament / Österreichisches Parlament".,657755&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL. Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  12. ^ de Kamer – la Chambre (2006-06-27). "de Kamer / la Chambre". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  13. ^ Central Intelligence Agency (2006-06-13). "Belgium – Government". The World Factbook. Retrieved 2006-06-28. 
  14. ^ Belgian Senate (2005-01-18). "Belgische Senaat / Belgian Senate / Sénat de Belgique / Belgischer Senat". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  15. ^ National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria (2006-12-28). "National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria / Народно събрание на Република България". Retrieved 2006-12-28. 
  16. ^ House of Representatives (2006-06-27). "House of Representatives / Chambre des Représentants / Βουλή των Αντιπροσώπων / Temsilciler Meclisi". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  17. ^ Parliament of the Czech Republic (2004-12-18). "Parlament České republiky, Poslanecká sněmovna / Parliament of the Czech Republic, Chamber of Deputies / Le Parlement de la République tchèque, Chambre des députés / Das Parlament der Tschechischen Republik, das Abgeordnetenhaus". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  18. ^ Parliament of the Czech Republic (2006-06-27). "Senát Parlamentu České republiky / Parliament of the Czech Republic – Senate". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  19. ^ Folketing (2006-06-27). "Folketinget / Folketing / Folketing / Folketing". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  20. ^ Riigikogu (2006-06-27). "Riigikogu / Riigikogu / Рийгикогу". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  21. ^ Parliament of Finland (2005-01-18). "Parliament of Finland / Suomen Eduskunta / Le Parlement de Finlande / Riksdagen". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  22. ^ Assemblée nationale (2006-11-28). "Assemblée nationale – La révision de la Constitution et le Congrès". Retrieved 2006-11-28. 
  23. ^ Assemblée nationale (2006-06-27). "National Assembly / Assemblée nationale / Nationalversammlung / Assemblea nazionale / Asamblea Nacional". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  24. ^ Sénat (2006-06-27). "Sénat". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  25. ^ Central Intelligence Agency (2006-06-13). "France – Government". The World Factbook. Retrieved 2006-06-28. 
  26. ^ Internet-Dienst des Deutschen Bundestages (2006-06-27). "German Bundestag / Bundestag allemand / Deutscher Bundestag". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  27. ^ Bundesrat (2006-06-27). "Bundesrat / Bundesrat / Bundesrat". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  28. ^ Hellenic Parliament (2006-06-27). "Hellenic Parliament / Βουλή των Ελλήνων". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  29. ^ National Assembly (2006-06-27). "House of the Nation / Az ország háza". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  30. ^ Parliament (2006-06-27). "Parlamento italiano". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  31. ^ a b Central Intelligence Agency (2006-06-13). "Italy – Government". The World Factbook. Retrieved 2006-06-28. 
  32. ^ Chamber of Deputies (2006-06-27). "المجلس / The Chamber of Deputies / La Chambre des Députés / Die Abgeordnetenkammer / La Camera dei Deputati / Cámara de los Diputados". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  33. ^ Senate of the Republic (2006-06-27). "Senato della Repubblica". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  34. ^ Latvijas Republikas Saeima (2003-02-18). "Saeima – the Latvian Parliament / Latvijas Republikas Saeima". Archived from the original on 16 June 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  35. ^ Office of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania (2006-06-27). "Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania / Le Parlement de la Republique de Lituanie / Lietuvos Respublikos Seimas". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  36. ^ Chambre des Députés (2006-06-27). "Chambre des Députés". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  37. ^ Central Intelligence Agency (2006-06-13). "Luxembourg – Government". The World Factbook. Retrieved 2006-06-28. 
  38. ^ House of Representatives (2006-06-27). "House of Representatives". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  39. ^ Parliament (2004-10-19). "The Dutch Parliament / Het Parlement". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  40. ^ Dienst Communicatie (2006-06-27). "House of Representatives of the States–General / Tweede Kamer der Staten–Generaal". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  41. ^ Senate (2006-06-27). "Senate of the States–General / Eerste Kamer der Staten–Generaal". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  42. ^ Chancellery of the Sejm (2006-06-26). "The Sejm of the Republic of Poland / Sejm Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  43. ^ Senate (2006-06-26). "The Senate of the Republic of Poland / Senat Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  44. ^ Assembly of the Republic (2006-06-27). "The Assembly of the Republic / L'Assemblée de la République / Assembleia da República". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  45. ^ Parliament of Romania (2006-12-22). "Parliament of Romania / Le Parlament de la Roumanie / Parlamentul României". Retrieved 2006-12-28. 
  46. ^ Chamber of Deputies (2006-12-28). "Parliament of Romania – Chamber of Deputies / Le Parlament de la Roumanie – Chambre des Députés / Parlamentul României – Camera Deputaţilor". Retrieved 2006-12-28. 
  47. ^ Senate (2006-12-28). "Parliament of Romania – Senate / Le Parlament de la Roumanie – Sénat / Parlamentul României". Retrieved 2006-12-28. 
  48. ^ National Council of the Slovak Republic (2006-06-27). "National Council of the Slovak Republic / Nationalrat der Slowakischen Republik / Národná rada Slovenskej republiky". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  49. ^ National Assembly (2006-06-27). "Republic of Slovenia National Assembly / Državni zbor Republike Slovenije". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  50. ^ National Council (2006-01-05). "National Council of the Republic of Slovenia / Državni svet Republike Slovenije". Archived from the original on 22 April 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  51. ^ Congreso de los Diputados (2004-06-07). "Congress of Deputies / Congreso de los Diputados". Archived from the original on 27 April 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  52. ^ Senate (2006-06-09). "The Senate of Spain / El Senado de España". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  53. ^ Riksdagen / Riksdagen (2006-06-27). "Riksdagen". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  54. ^ a b c Information Policy Division, Office of Public Sector Information (2006-06-27). "Houses of Parliament". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  55. ^ CIRB-CIBG (2006-05-05). "Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Parlement / Brussels Regional Parliament / Parlement de la Région de Bruxelles-Capitale / Brüsseler Regionalparlament". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  56. ^ Federal Government of Belgium (2006-06-28). "Brussels–Capital Region". Retrieved 2006-06-28. 
  57. ^ Flemish Parliament (2006-06-27). "Vlaams Parlement / Flemish Parliament / Parlement flamand / Flämisches Parlament / Parlamento fiammingo / Parlamento flamengo / Parlamento Flamenco / Flamländska Parlamentet". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  58. ^ Parlement-Wallon (2006-06-27). "Parlement wallon". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  59. ^ Federal Government of Belgium (2006-06-28). "Walloon Region". Retrieved 2006-06-28. 
  60. ^ Cellule Internet du Parlement (2006-06-27). "Parlement van de Franstalige gemeenschap / Parliament of the French Community / Parlement de la Communauté française / Parlament der französischsprachigen Gemeinschaft". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  61. ^ Parliament of the German-speaking Community (2006-06-27). "Parlement van de Duitstalige Gemeenschap / Parliament of the German-speaking Community / Parlement de la Communauté germanophone / Parlament der Deutschsprachigen Gemeinschaft". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  62. ^ a b Department of the Taoiseach (November 2004). "Bunreacht na hÉireann – Constitution of Ireland". pp. Article 15, §§1.1°–1.2°. Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  63. ^ Dolan, Terence. "Dáil". Hiberno-English archive. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  64. ^ Dolan, Terence. "Seanad Éireann". Hiberno-English archive. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  65. ^ Dolan, Terence. "Oireachtas". Hiberno-English archive. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  66. ^ Government of Gibraltar (2005-04-20). "Government of Gibraltar". Retrieved 2007-12-26. [dead link]

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