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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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Reforms and Reform Opportunities

Reform opportunities arise as a result of major changes owing to the EU treaties. These changes, first, stem from treaty revisions that transfer new competences to the EU. Second, reform opportunities arise in member states that join the EU and, hence, encounter the question of whether and in what way to adapt parliamentary competences to the new conditions of policymaking. In the case of treaty revisions, a reform opportunity begins with the year in which the governments sign the new treaty and ends two years after the entry into force of a treaty. Thus, the assumption is that parliamentary parties start to consider their reactions once it becomes clear what governments actually agreed. They will continue to consider reforms and also work on their implementation until shortly after the entry into force of a treaty. It is clear that the moment when the attention to reform of parliamentary actors fades away is hard to pinpoint precisely. The current set-up does seem reasonably plausible and also has the advantage to capture most of the years since

Table 4.1 Reform opportunities for different groups of member states

Reform opportunity

EU member state accession cohorts

Pre-1985

1986

1995

2004

2007

7 ENL85-88

X

2 TEU92-95

X

X

3ENL94-96

X

4TA97-01

X

X

X

5 TN01-04

X

X

X

  • 6 ENL03-05
  • 7 CT04-06

X

X

X

X

8 ENL06-08

X

9 LT08-10

X

X

X

X

X

Note: ENL: Enlargement,-TEU:Treatyon European Union; TA: Treaty ofAmsterdam;TN:Treaty of Nice; CT: Constitutional Treaty; LT: Lisbon Treaty.

Table 4.2 Number and use of reform opportunities

Opportunity

Member states

Reforms

% used opportunities

ENL85-88

2

2

100

TEU92-95

11

7

64

ENL94-96

3

3

100

TA97-01

14

4

29

TN01-04

14

3

21

ENL03-05

7

7

100

CT04-06

14

3

21

ENL06-08

1

1

100

LT08-10

23

2

9

Total

89

32

36

Among the treaty revisions, the Maastricht Treaty motivated 64 per cent of the member parliaments to enact reforms whereas later treaties led to changes in 20-30 per cent of the member states. The Lisbon Treaty inspired reactions in only two parliaments but we have to bear in mind that the data used here extends only until 2010, less than one year beyond the treaty's ratification. Furthermore, the table shows that all new member states implemented parliamentary reforms upon accession. Clearly, parties in these countries all deemed it necessary to adjust parliamentary institutions to changes of the policy process that they would encounter upon becoming members. Looking at the use of reform opportunities of each member parliament individually, we find that most of them have used around half of their opportunities (shown in the Appendix, Table A4.1). Some parliaments, such as those of Sweden and Finland, however, have used only one of their chances, albeit very effectively as we shall see in the section entitled 'Patterns of Parliamentary Oversight Institutions'. Clearly, reform choices are interdependent through time. Once a parliament has strong oversight institutions, future reforms necessarily become more incremental. This interdependence of reforms over time is also visible in the magnitude of reforms; we observe a larger number of relatively small changes compared to a smaller number of large reforms (see Figure A4.1).

 
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