The Democratic Deficit and Parliamentary Adaptation to Integration


In what ways does European integration weaken the rights and capacities of national parliaments? What does it mean to say that policy-makers have taken measures to reinforce EU-related parliamentary competences? This chapter, first, explains the thesis that national parliaments lose authority and relevance from integration, and embeds it into the broader debate on the democratic deficit of the EU and international institutions more generally. In a second step, it shows empirically what kind of national and European-level parliamentary rights exist, mapping their development over time and across countries. The most important goal then is to justify the two research questions of this study empirically. As explained in the Chapter 1, national parliaments now have EU-related 'oversight institutions' at home, albeit to varying degrees. Their 'direct' European role, on the other hand, has remained weak. This chapter presents empirical information substantiating both of these claims. It, thus, lays the groundwork for the following chapters, which then focus on explaining the patterns of parliamentary adaptation to European integration that we observe empirically.

National Parliaments and the Democratic Deficit of the European Union

Arguments about how and why European integration weakens national parliaments originate from the debate around the Union's democratic deficit. To be sure, the democratic deficit debate is both diverse and controversial. Not all scholars subscribe to the idea that the EU itself is, on the whole, undemocratic, or that it has detrimental effects on democracy in the member states. What this section seeks to show, however, is that national parliamentary rights are an important concern, not only for scholars that believe, for various reasons, in the existence of a democratic deficit, but even for those that conceive of European integration as, on balance, as democratic as it can and should be.

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