|Vol.7, No.22, 31.5.01, p8
INSTITUTIONAL reform chief Michel Barnier has called for national parliamentarians to be given a key role in the Union's legislative process by allowing them to take part in the ministerial meetings which form the backbone of EU decision making.
He suggests member state MPs should be regularly involved in meetings in the Council of Ministers, possibly in a special "legislative committee," in a bid to bring Union decision making closer to the people. "I do think that we could have a meeting, let's say twice a month, of a legislative committee, involving foreign affairs ministers or technical ministers and two representatives of each of the national parliaments," he said.
Barnier's comments came as he discussed the future of Europe with MEPs on the constitutional affairs committee on Monday (28 May). He endorsed the idea of a convention of national and European parliamentarians, government representatives and Commission officials, to lay the ground for the next round of treaty changes scheduled for 2004.
But he suggested the EU could go further in its bid to coordinate European and national decision making.
He proposed the involvement of national MPs should go beyond just the run-up to the next intergovernmental conference and that the treaty changes themselves could include rules for involving them in EU decisions."Even when ministers are taking votes in council we should make sure that they are acting in conjunction and consultation with national parliaments," Barnier said. "If I were a French minister I think it would be very useful to have two representatives of the French national parliament next to me in the council to help me take decisions."
Ultimately MPs could be so involved in the decisions that they would be willing to forego their power to give final approval to some decisions after they have been already agreed by EU leaders. "We wouldn't then have to go through the process of national ratification for each new European treaty," he said.
But Barnier was hostile to an idea, put forward by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, of setting up a second chamber of the European Parliament made up of national politicians. The Commissioner said his own plans had the advantage of simplicity. "It does have the benefits of working on the basis of the existing institutions and not trying to set up new ones," he said.
Barnier also warned MEPs against trying to obstruct plans to increase the powers of national parliamentarians for fear of losing influence themselves. "I think it's something that you should try to deal with early on in the day so that you are not overtaken by events or caught with your back against the wall," he said.
Institutional reform chief Michel Barnier has called for national parliamentarians to be given a key role in the Union's legislative process by allowing them to take part in the ministerial meetings which form the backbone of EU decision making.
|Politics and International Relations