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Article

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, suggests 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, 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 impacts on 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 as to 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

The debate on whether or not the European Union (EU) is suffering from a democratic deficit is “crowded territory.” The debate is not only far-reaching but has evolved along with the transformation of the system of European governance. In the 1990s the “standard version of the democratic deficit” was developed. This drives on the observation that EU member states have transferred powers to the supranational construction of the EU and as such these powers escape national parliamentary control. The fact that the European Parliament was a rather weak institution is seen as to further aggravate the situation. While this is, since the early 2000s, no longer seen as an adequate standard of comparison and indicator for the democratic quality of the EU, the EU democratic system is still seen to fall short on different accounts, for example when it comes both to participatory and representative democracy. This might come as a surprise, as the EU has undertaken a number of reforms especially since and by way of the Maastricht Treaty to make the EU more “democratic.” For example, the (indirect) involvement of national parliaments into EU policymaking was strengthened or the tool of the European Citizen Initiative (ECI) was introduced. As such, the debate on the democratic deficit is not only academic but takes place within the political arena. It is consequential by being mirrored in treaty changes and thus also functional. Overall these tools are seen to fall short however, at least so far. One reason seems to be expectation management. The terms used seem to be very “loaded”. For example, the notion is evoked that the Union is a representative democracy. Moreover piecemeal reform leads to different modes of representation. While some of these objectives have been achieved, for example, by providing access of certain groups to decision-making process, others are excluded, which can in fact exacerbate the democratic deficit. Overall the “traditional” debate on the democratic deficit has taken on a new quality: the context of emergence of the so-called illiberal democracies at the member state level. It has been stated already almost 20 years ago that the EU will have to invent new forms of citizenship, representation, and decision-making if it is ever to democratize itself. It seems that the EU has tried to do so partially, but the use of far-reaching and normative notions and concepts is bound to fall short in a system that is in constant flux and very heterogeneous.

Article

Sonia Palmieri

While women have succeeded in promoting a feminist agenda in some parliaments, the international research shows that this is not always possible, and accordingly, not a realistic expectation for women. Parliaments, like any institution, have specific cultural norms and practices, some of which actively work against the advancement of gender equality. Understanding the conditions under which female—and male—parliamentarians might succeed in promoting gender equality outcomes has become an important avenue for research and development practice. The focus on gender-sensitive parliaments allows for a framework to identify, and encourage the development of, those conditions. There are four key elements of a gender-sensitive parliament. First, it accepts that the responsibility to achieve gender equality, both as a policy outcome and as a process, rests with the parliament as a whole (its male and female members and staff) and with the organizations that drive substantial policy, procedural, and normative development (political parties). Second, a gender-sensitive parliament is guided by institutional policies and legal frameworks, which allow the parliament to monitor its achievements toward gender equality and allow follow-up and review. Third, a gender-sensitive parliament institutionalizes a gender mainstreaming approach through its representational, legislative, and oversight work to ensure that all the parliament’s outputs consider, and counteract, any potential discrimination against women or men, girls or boys. This element requires a reconsideration of the process and structures of the parliament, including the respective roles and capacities of members and parliamentary staff. Fourth, a gender-sensitive parliament constantly strives to eliminate institutional cultures that sanction and perpetuate discriminatory, prejudicial norms and attitudes in the workplace against women members and staff.

Article

Research on the origin, evolution, and effects of parliaments on public policies is presented. Progress has been made, but unresolved questions remain. Both historical and contemporary rational choice–based research are discussed, although more attention is given to the latter than to the former.

Article

Monika Mühlböck

Together, the European Parliament (EP) and the Council of the European Union form the bicameral legislature of the European Union (EU). However, as the analysis of voting behavior shows, decision-making is structured differently in the two institutions. In the EP, competition takes place between European party groups along a left-right and a rising pro-anti EU integration dimension. In the Council, ideology and party politics play a minor role. Voting behavior of ministers is determined by different national interests on an issue-by-issue basis. Furthermore, voting in the Council is dominated by the so-called culture of consensus. Despite the extension of qualified majority voting (QMV) to most areas of EU decision-making, many legislative proposals are adopted unanimously. Even if there is dissent, it is usually only one or two member states voting against the proposal. This makes it difficult to discover patterns of conflict and coalition formation through Council voting data. At the same time, consensus-seeking is something the Council and the EP have in common. In the EP, voting cohesion is high not only within groups but also in the EP plenary as a whole, with a grand coalition between Social Democrats and Conservatives forming frequently, often including the Liberals as well as parties on the left side of the political spectrum. Notwithstanding signs of a decline in consensual decision-making in the wake of the financial and the migration crisis, voting cohesion dominates within the Council and the EP, as well as across institutions in bicameral decision-making.

Article

Ariadna Ripoll Servent and Christilla Roederer-Rynning

The European Parliament (EP) has grown from a “talking shop” to a fully-fledged legislative body in the European Union (EU)’s bicameral system. This process of communautarization and parliamentarization has generated considerable attention in the academic field. Furthermore, in today’s political environment—characterized by the polarization of public opinion, Brexit, the lingering effects of the Eurozone crisis, and the steady rise of Euroskeptical and radical forces throughout Europe—the role of the European Parliament (EP) is perhaps more critical to understand and assess than ever before. An overarching question in the literature is how “normal” the EP has become. Drawing on David Easton’s political systems approach, we examine this condition in three sub-literatures: the literature on inputs (demands), the literature on withinputs (inter-institutional processing of inputs), and the literature on outputs (EP decisions and actions, and the impact thereof). Building on this literature and contributing to the ongoing debate on the nature and significance of the EP, we propose to conceptualize the EP as “a normal parliament in a polity of a different kind.” This paradoxical conceptualization reflects abundant insights that, despite the EP gaining comprehensive lawmaking powers that are quite unparalleled in the world of international politics, its functioning and significance remain profoundly, distinctly, and probably durably, shaped by the multilevel nature of EU politics.

Article

Since the end of World War II a key question that successive U.K. governments have faced is what position the country should occupy in global affairs. Such a question stemmed from the legacy of Empire, which both offered global connections and at the same time financial demands in terms of the need to maintain a global footing. These issues came to a head when the United Kingdom applied (unsuccessfully) to join the European Community (the forerunner of the European Union (EU)) in the 1960s when the country was reappraising its position in the world. And while the United Kingdom eventually joined the Community in 1973, there remained an underlying skepticism about membership within the public at large as well as within sections of the Conservative and Labour parties. This suspicion gained more traction from the 1990s onward as the then EU appeared to be moving to a deeper level of integration in the wake of the Maastricht Treaty. This spurred on Euroskeptics in the United Kingdom to campaign for independence. To put a lid on this pressure for reform, David Cameron held a referendum on U.K. membership in 2016. His gamble that this would once and for all seal the United Kingdom within the EU by closing down the issue of withdrawal did not actually materialize, as the electorate voted to leave, which in turn set the country on a path to depart the EU in 2020. Yet, despite these developments, just as was the case in 1945, the United Kingdom is in many ways still searching for a role in the world in 2020.

Article

In Europe, two budgetary treaties were adopted in 1970 and 1975, respectively. They changed the budgetary procedures on the founding treaties of the European Communities (EC). The main reason was the introduction of the concept of “own resources” in 1970 to replace national financial contributions. It was decided that customs duties, agricultural levies, and a certain percentage of the value-added tax (VAT) in the Member States should go to the EC budget. Since that would remove the budget control of the national parliaments, it was argued that the European Parliament should have budgetary powers. The argument was especially developed by the European Parliament. The Member States eventually accepted the argument, but with some hesitation, so in the end the Parliament got less than it demanded. The Member States focused on control and the Parliament focused on legitimacy. The Commission fought for its own prerogatives. Apart from empowering the European Parliament, the second budgetary treaty in 1975 also created the European Court of Auditors. And prior to the signing of the treaty, the institutions (Commission, Council, and Parliament) had also agreed to introduce a conciliation procedure as a part of the budgetary process. This was done by an inter-institutional agreement outside the new treaty. Tracing the processes of adopting the two treaties shows that there was a great deal of inter-institutional bargaining, but also inter-governmental bargaining within the Council of Ministers, where France arguably was the “laggard” in 1970, joined by Denmark in 1975, after the first enlargement in 1973. The United Kingdom, preoccupied with its renegotiation of membership and a referendum in June 1975, had a relatively low profile in the negotiations. Scholars have debated the explanatory power of the liberal intergovernmental approach (with emphasis on the role of the Member States), contrasting it with some institutionalist approach considered better suited to explaining these treaty reforms. Leading scholars have especially applied sociological and historical institutionalism.

Article

Kai Oppermann and Klaus Brummer

The main contribution of veto player approaches in Comparative Politics has been to the study of policy stability and change. Specifically, the argument is that the possibility and conditions for policy change in a given polity and issue area depend on the configuration of veto players and veto points. Most notably, veto player approaches have introduced a general conceptual tool kit that has facilitated the comparative analysis of the dynamics and obstacles of policy change across (democratic and non-democratic) regime types and public policy areas. However, in Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA), references to veto players and veto points tend to be hardly systematic and are mainly used to highlight domestic constraints on preference formation, decision-making, or responses to international crises. Hence, the theoretical and empirical potential of veto player approaches for FPA has not yet been systematically explored. Against this background, the article makes the case that “taking veto players seriously” has a lot to offer to the study of foreign policy. While there are differences between applying veto player approaches in public policy and in FPA (e.g., with respect to the more informal process of foreign policy decision-making or the larger policy discretion of the agenda setter in foreign policy), those differences must not be overdone. Indeed, they point to certain shifts in emphasis and specific methodological challenges for veto player studies in foreign policy, but do not call into question the basic explanatory logic of veto player approaches or their transferability from one field to the other. What is more, the article shows that multiple links between veto player approaches and FPA theories can be established. Generally speaking, veto player approaches have immense potential in reinvigorating comparative foreign policy analysis. More specifically, they can be linked up to FPA works on the role of parliaments, coalitions, or leadership styles as well as on those discussing change, effectiveness, or fiascos in foreign policy.

Article

The objective of the Community method is to ensure that, in the making, implementing, and enforcing of European Union law and policy, (a) the general European interest is safeguarded by the independent European Commission, which is responsible for proposing new EU legislation; (b) democratic representation of the people and the Member States takes place at the level of the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, which together form the EU’s legislature; and (c) judicial control is secured by the European Court of Justice. The article traces the historical origins and evolution of the Community method and assesses its continuing relevance against the background of alternative ways of decision making and coordination such as “intense transgovernmentalism” or “deliberative intergovernmentalism,” in which the European Council plays the leading role.

Article

The Nice Treaty negotiated during the year 2000, signed in 2001 and in force from 2003, focused on institutional changes considered necessary, especially by the larger member states, for the anticipated large enlargement of the European Union with several central and eastern European countries. Efforts to adopt such changes in the Amsterdam Treaty negotiations in 1996–1997 had failed. The Nice Treaty therefore dealt with what was known as the “Amsterdam leftovers,” namely size and composition of the European Commission, reweighting of votes in the Council of Ministers, and increased use of qualified majority voting in the Council. Concerning the reweighting of votes the intergovernmental conference agreed to increase the number of votes per member state, but the larger member states got a relatively larger increase that the smaller member states. This should make it more difficult for the smaller member states to dominate in the future, something feared by the larger states. Concerning the Commission, it was decided that each member state would nominate one commissioner in the future from January 1, 2005. When the membership of the union reached 27 the size would have to be reduced. How much and how would be decided later. Concerning the use of qualified majority voting the decision was to extend the use to some policy areas from the entry into force of the new treaty and for some policy areas considered more controversial the extension would take place later. For the most controversial areas no extension to qualified majority voting was considered. During the intergovernmental conference, which negotiated the new treaty, the topic of “enhanced cooperation” was added. Most of these topics were quite controversial, and afterward there was a feeling that the treaty did not adequately deal with all the issues. This in turn led to further efforts to improve the institutions, first in the failed Constitutional Treaty (2004) and eventually in the successful Lisbon Treaty (2007).

Article

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.

Article

Desmond Dinan

The Single European Act (SEA) of 1986 was the first major reform of the founding treaties of the three original European Communities, the forerunners of the European Union (EU). The main purpose of the SEA was to facilitate implementation of the Single Market Program by the end of 1992, notably by making it possible for national governments to enact the necessary legislation in the Council of Ministers by means of qualified-majority voting (QMV). To complement the shift of decision-making from unanimity to QMV, the SEA also increased the legislative authority of the European Parliament by introducing the cooperation procedure. This was intended to help close the EC’s perceived democratic deficit, or at least to prevent it from widening. The SEA included changes in other policy areas as well as the single market, such as cohesion policy, environmental policy, research and technology policy, and intergovernmental cooperation on foreign policy (European Political Cooperation). The SEA, and the Single Market Program with which it is closely associated, became synonymous with the acceleration of European integration in the late 1980s. Procedurally and substantively, the SEA set a precedent for other, far-reaching treaty reforms, especially the Maastricht Treaty of 1992. Jacques Delors, who became commission president in 1985, is widely credited with having engineered the SEA. The leaders of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom may have played a more important role, especially as the SEA emerged out of a complicated intergovernmental conference, which culminated in a meeting of the European Council in December 1985. From the perspective of more than three decades later, with the EU facing serious setbacks, the SEA looks like a shining light in the history of European integration.