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The role of national Parliaments in EU affairs

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The role of national Parliaments in EU affairs



The Treaty of Lisbon marks an important step in the role played by national Parliaments in EU affairs, listing, for the first time, in a provision (Article 12 of the Treaty on European Union - TEU) the various ways in which national Parliaments may ‘contribute actively to the good functioning of the EU’. Their participation is ensured in 4 main ways:

receiving information and documents;

reviewing respect for the principle of subsidiarity;

participating in the evaluation mechanisms in the area of justice, freedom and security;

involvement in Treaty revision.


The following documents must be promptly forwarded to national Parliaments:


the annual work programme and any other instrument of legislative planning or policy;

proposals for legislation;

the agendas and the outcome of meetings of the Council;

the annual report of the European Court of Auditors;

the annual report established by the Commission on the application of the principles governing EU competence;

the evaluations of the implementation of the EU policies in the area of freedom, security and justice.

Furthermore, national parliaments receive notification of proposals for the amendment of the Treaties under the ordinary revision procedure and of requests for accession to the EU.


The Protocol on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality allows national Parliaments to issue reasoned opinions if they consider that an EU draft legislative act does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity. All reasoned opinions should be taken into account by the institutions involved in the legislative process. Other consequences for a legislative proposal depend on their number.

The Protocol assigns 2 votes to each national Parliament (if bicameral, one for each chamber). If the reasoned opinions submitted correspond to at least one third of the votes, the Commission has to review its proposal and may decide to maintain, amend or withdraw it. This threshold is lowered to one quarter of the votes in proposals relating to judicial cooperation in criminal matters and police cooperation. When the reasoned opinions submitted correspond to a majority of the votes, if the Commission decides to maintain the proposal, the European Parliament and the Council must consider whether the proposal complies with the principle of subsidiarity before concluding the first reading.

The Court of Justice of the European Union has jurisdiction in actions, based on a breach of the principle of subsidiarity by a legislative act, brought by Member States, or notified by them in accordance with their legal order on behalf of their national Parliament or a chamber thereof.


In the area of justice, freedom and security, national Parliaments have a specific role. They participate in the evaluation of the activities of Eurojust and in the scrutiny of the activities of Europol.

In addition, national Parliaments may oppose Council decisions which extend the ordinary legislative procedure (with qualified majority in the Council) to certain aspects of family law with cross-border implications which are currently subject to a special legislative procedure with unanimity in the Council ( passerelle clause in Article 81 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).


Furthermore, the Treaty of Lisbon associates the national Parliaments with the procedures for the revision of the treaties, as described below.

Under the ordinary and simplified revision procedures, amendments to the Treaties enter into force after being ratified (or approved, for simplified revision procedures) by all the Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional provisions, which usually require parliamentary ratification.

Under the ordinary revision procedure, a Convention, which includes, among other members, representatives of national Parliaments, is convened to examine and adopt a recommendation on the revision proposals.

Under the general ‘passerelle clause’ of Article 48(7) TEU, the initiative taken by the European Council to switch from the special legislative procedure to the ordinary legislative procedure, or from voting by unanimity to voting by qualified majority, must be notified to the national Parliaments and cannot be adopted if a national Parliament opposes it within 6 months.


Since 1989, members of the national Parliaments' committees dealing with EU affairs and members of the European Parliament have met twice a year in a Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs, more commonly known by its French acronym COSAC, to exchange information and best practices and to discuss issues of common European interest.

The role of COSAC is recognised in the protocol on the role of national Parliaments in the EU which states that COSAC may send the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission any contribution it deems appropriate.


* A communication is a policy document with no mandatory authority. The Commission takes the initiative of publishing a communication when it wishes to set out its own thinking on a topical issue. A communication has no legal effect (definition from the European Judicial Network).


For further information:

last update 20.10.2015