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Parliaments in Foreign Policy  

Wolfgang Wagner

Parliaments differ enormously in their foreign policy competences. This is best documented in the area of “war powers,” understood as decision-making on the use of force. In other issue areas, such as treaty-making, defense budgets, sanctions, or arms exports, differences across countries are far less researched. The available data, however, suggest that differences in those areas are no smaller than in the area of war powers. What is more, the data also show that parliamentary competences across issue areas within particular countries also differ a lot. Parliaments are not strong or weak across the full spectrum of foreign policy competences. Instead, parliamentary competences are country-specific as well as issue-specific. A general trend toward a parliamentarization or deparliamentarization of foreign affairs is not discernible. Partly inspired by institutionalist versions of Democratic Peace Theory, numerous studies have examined whether parliamentary powers have any effect on countries’ propensity to use armed force. Case-study research tends to find that variation in parliamentary powers affects decision-making on the use of force but also emphasizes that the effects of institutional constraints need to be understood in conjunction with the preferences of the public, parliament, and government. Statistical studies have found some evidence for a “parliamentary peace,” but because of problematic indicators and a lack of controls, doubts remain about the robustness and significance of this effect. In any case, theories of legislative–executive relations in parliamentary systems suggest that open confrontations between parliament and government are exceptional. Instead of an institutional constraint in a system of checks and balances, parliamentary war powers can be understood as an additional reassurance against unpopular decisions to use force. Most studies of parliaments in foreign affairs are characterized by “methodological nationalism”—that is, the assumption that nation-states are the natural units of analysis. However, parliaments’ activities in foreign affairs are not exhausted by their monitoring and scrutiny of national executives. In addition, there is a long tradition of “parliamentary diplomacy” and engagement in interparliamentary institutions. The most powerful parliamentary actor beyond the nation-state is the European Parliament. Although its formal competences are limited, it has been very effective in using its powers to influence European foreign policy.

Article

Italy and the European Union  

Federiga Bindi

Italy is a founding member state of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and, subsequently, the European Economic Community (EEC). At the time, membership meant anchoring the newborn Italian democracy, regaining international respectability after the Fascist period renewed vest internationally , and securing much-needed economic support to boost development. While in the 1950s the left side of the political spectrum vehemently opposed ECSC/EEC membership, starting with the late 1980s, European integration became the most important pillar of Italian foreign policy, an issue of shared consensus among different partiesa. The golden period for Italy – that is the phase when Italy was at the peak of its influence in the Communities - was the decade ranging from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s,. At the time, Italian politicians such as Giulio Andreotti played fundamental roles in key moments of EEC/EU history: enlargement to the south, the single market, the Treaty of the European Union, and especially the creation of the euro are all key events in the history of the European Union which is safe to say would have never happened without the skillful contribution of Italy’s key government actors of the time. As European integration started again to be a contentious issue in domestic politics, so declined Italy’s influence. In more recent years: despite Italy’s formal status as a “big” member of the EU, Rome became less relevant than Madrid in EU decision making procedures. The parochial attitude of Italian elites, the incapacity of long-term programming, and relative government instability are all factors that have contributed to reducing the role of Italy in the EU.