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Home arrow Political science arrow Constitutional preferences and parliamentary reform: explaining national parliaments adaptation to European integration
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The Evolution and Diversity of Oversight Institutions

Equipped with the measures introduced in the last section, Figure 2.3 shows the evolution of oversight institution in the EU system. Clearly, parliamentary

European integration and national parliamentary oversight institutions Note

Figure 2.3 European integration and national parliamentary oversight institutions Note: The lines show averages for all member states at a given point in time. EEC: Treaty on the European Economic Community. SEA: Single European Act. TEU: Treaty on European Union. AMS: Treaty of Amsterdam. NICE: Treaty of Nice. LIS: Treaty of Lisbon. ENL: Enlargements as shown in Figure 2.4.

Source: Adapted from Winzen (2012).

oversight has developed as European integration has progressed. After a phase of passivity in the 1960s, the Northern Enlargement brought in the first group of more active parliaments, notably from Denmark and the United Kingdom. Yet, except for this brief period of change, stability remained the rule, in line with the historical record that characterizes the period of integration between the 1960s and the 1980s as one of institutional stagnation and public and parliamentary passivity. The major phase of parliamentary adaptation sets in gradually in the mid-1980s and accelerates in the 1990s, in conjunction with the EU's Single Market Programme, and steps towards 'political union' in the Maastricht Treaty on European Union, which came into force in 1993. Since then, further treaty revisions and the accession of new parliaments from the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries and Eastern Europe seem to have fuelled an adaptation process that has neither come to an end nor reached a ceiling.

Figure 2.4 examines the trajectories of different enlargement cohorts. In all of the older cohorts, we observe clear trends towards the stronger oversight institutions. Parliaments that joined the EU only in the 1990s and the 2000s have had less time to implement institutional reforms. Yet, they typically create oversight institutions upon accession that fall into line with what exists in other member states. In fact, the Austrian, Finish, and Swedish parliaments that joined in 1995 clearly sought more far-reaching rights than were the rule in the EU at the time. To a lesser extent this also holds true for the accession countries from Central and Eastern Europe, albeit not for Cyprus and Malta that joined at the same time.

Oversight institutions by EU enlargement cohorts Note

Figure 2.4 Oversight institutions by EU enlargement cohorts Note: Data on Romania is included only for 2010.

Source: Adapted from Winzen (2012).

Figure 2.5 and Table 2.5 display individual countries. While Figure 2.5 largely reinforces the insights discussed so far, it also highlights diversity within accession cohorts. Thus, it is too simple to distinguish countries only according to when they enter the EU. Table 2.5 underlines this perception. For instance, even though the Eastern Enlargement countries have all adopted relatively strong oversight institutions, they do not neatly align at the top of the ranking of older member states. Countries such as Finland and Denmark, but also founding members such as the Netherlands and Germany, have parliaments that are as well or better adapted to EU decision-making than those of the new member states. At the same time, the parliaments of other founding members such as Belgium and Luxembourg continue to lag behind.

Table 2.5 also compares the measures used here with alternatives from the years 2010 and 1999. Some of these measures combine institutional characteristics and behavioural indicators (e.g. Karlas 2011, 2012), others are expert survey judgements (Strom etal. 2003), summaries of country chapters in edited volumes (Maurer and Wessels 2001) or individual perceptions (Bergman 1997). Notwithstanding this diversity, there is broad agreement, notably in terms of which parliaments belong to the top and bottom groups. Moreover, discrepancies are partly the result of different measurement strategies. For instance, the scale that shows the weakest correlation with the data

Oversight institutions by member state parliament Note

Figure 2.5 Oversight institutions by member state parliament Note: Romanian data is missing except for 2010.

Source: Updated version of Winzen (2013).

used here has only three categories (Strom et al. 2003). Selected discrepancies notwithstanding, there is broad agreement in the literature on what parliaments have adapted more or less successfully to meet the challenges of European integration.

In sum, national parliaments have gradually acquired EU-related oversight institutions. Notably, the EU's steps towards political union in the late 1980s and 1990s have sparked a reform process that has not yet come to an end. Nevertheless, parliaments enact institutional reforms to varying degrees, some having very elaborate and others only weakly developed oversight institutions.

Table 2.5 Different rankings of national parliamentary oversight in EU affairs

Year of measurement*

Here

2010

Winzen

2010

Karlas 1 2010

Here

1999

Winzen

1999

D&A

1999

M&W

1999

Bergman

1999

Finland

0.9

0.8

0.7

0.9

0.8

0.5

0.8

0.9

Lithuania

0.9

0.8

0.7

Romania

0.8

0.8

0.5

Denmark

0.8

0.9

0.7

0.7

0.8

1.0

1.0

1.0

Bulgaria

0.8

0.7

0.4

Slovakia

0.7

0.8

0.5

Czech Republic

0.7

0.6

0.4

Netherlands

0.7

0.6

0.5

0.4

0.4

0.0

0.5

0.6

Latvia

0.7

0.8

0.5

Estonia

0.7

0.7

0.7

Germany

0.7

0.7

0.6

0.7

0.7

0.0

0.5

0.7

Italy

0.7

0.6

0.5

0.2

0.3

0.5

0.0

0.5

United Kingdom

0.6

0.6

0.4

0.6

0.6

0.0

0.3

0.6

Hungary

0.6

0.7

0.6

Poland

0.6

0.7

0.6

Slovenia

0.6

0.7

0.6

Austria

0.6

0.6

0.5

0.5

0.6

0.5

0.8

0.8

Malta

0.6

0.5

0.2

France

0.6

0.4

0.5

0.5

0.3

0.0

0.3

0.4

Sweden

0.5

0.6

0.6

0.5

0.6

0.5

0.8

0.9

Ireland

0.5

0.5

0.2

0.2

0.2

0.0

0.0

0.4

Portugal

0.5

0.5

0.2

0.3

0.2

0.0

0.0

0.1

Greece

0.3

0.3

0.2

0.3

0.2

0.0

0.0

0.0

Spain

0.3

0.3

0.2

0.3

0.3

0.0

0.0

0.1

Belgium

0.3

0.2

0.2

0.3

0.2

0.0

0.0

0.3

Luxembourg

0.2

0.2

0.3

0.2

0.2

0.0

0.0

0.2

Cyprus

0.2

0.1

0.2

Correlations

Here 2010 Winzen

0.9

Karlas 1 Here 1999 Winzen

0.7

0.8

0.9

D&A

0.5

0.6

M&W

0.8

0.9

0.7

Bergman

0.8

0.9

0.7

0.9

Note: *'Year of measurement' identifies the approximate yearthat the assessment targets. All scales have been recoded so that 1 representsthe maximum and 0 the minimum value. Winzen (2012) and Karlas (2012) measure the strength of parliaments' oversight institutions in EU affairs. Karlas also employs selected behavioural indicators. D&A draws on a survey asking experts to rank backbench influence on the cabinet in EU affairs as weak, medium, or strong. M&W summarizes contributions to an edited volume also relying mostly on institutional indicators. The column with the heading 'Bergman' refers to a ranking proposed by this author.

Sources: Table adapted from Winzen (2012). For above, see Winzen (2012); Karlas (2012); D&A: Delegation and Accountability dataset (Strom etal. 2003); M&W: Maurerand Wessels (2001); Bergman (2000).

Conclusion

The aim of this chapter has been twofold: first, to explain why many observers regard European integration as a challenge for the parliaments of the member states; and second, to justify the two research questions that guide the theoretical and empirical analyses to follow. We have seen, on the one hand, that European integration creates information deficits and authority losses for national parliaments. Yet, on the other hand, it is also evident that parliaments have obtained new EU-related rights. Significant domestic oversight institutions that facilitate parliamentary oversight of government conduct in EU affairs exist in several countries, while, however, being weaker elsewhere. The EU now also affords national parliaments a number of opportunities to engage more directly in EU policy-making as European-level institutional actors. Yet, the corresponding procedures and arenas do not commit the participating parliaments to make use of them, or to follow any particular European-wide inter-parliamentary policy. The following chapters turn to the question of how the emergence of and variation in domestic oversight institutions, and the characteristics of parliaments' direct European role, might be explained.

 
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