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The Danish Folketing made interesting proposals how to strengthen national democratic scrutiny of the European institutions:

(At the last COSAC meeting (17 May 2013))

…the Danish Folketing suggested establishing a right of initiative for national Parliaments in parallel to a citizens’ initiative (a certain number of national Parliaments should be allowed to invite the European Commission to consider tabling a legislative proposal) in order to strengthen national Parliaments in European decision-making. Another idea proposed by the Danish Folketing was for political opinions to undergo the subsidiarity check procedure and obtain the same status as reasoned opinions thereby strengthening the Political Dialogue with the Commission.

Often Public debate about a more democratic Europe centers around a revision of the European Treaties (which we learned is difficult and requires referendums). What is proposed by the Danish Parliament Folketing does not necessitate a treaty change at this stage. The proposed measure is similar to the European citizens initiative and would involve a process where proposals for legislation are made by national Parliaments, and the Commission retains the freedom whether to consider it or not. Essentially a petition right to curtail the initiative right of the Commission. A note of COSAC or the respective parliaments to the European Commission would be sufficient. An inter-institutional agreement could be made with the European Commission to lay down specific procedural rules for national parliament initiatives. The successor of President José Manuel Barroso could conclude such rules for the upcoming Commission.

The proposed rules make a lot of sense for typical scenarios in Parliament:
a) National best practice: Imagine the German Bundestag adopts a new German law for qualified electronic signature. In lights of the European added value of electronic signatures and the single market it would invite the European Commission in its resolution to propose a European directive on the same matter.
b) Alternate scenario: the Bundestag decides that a law should not be concluded at the national stage for now because European stage initiative would suit it better, therefore invites the Commission to draft legislation on the matter and instead of adopting the law nationally forwards the proposed law to the Commission for consideration. The European Commission could make use of its prerogatives and deny an EU legislative proposal, notify the requesting Parliament, here Bundestag, which then would proceed with national legislative action.

The other proposal, subsidiarity check procedures are a good idea but may put a great work load on participants. Essentially I wish the European Commission would be required to always provide a synopsis of the legislative status quo in all the member states before it “harmonises”. That translates into more meaningful impact assessments.

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