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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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Variation in Parliamentary Adaptation and Reform Preferences

Let us begin with an empirical mapping of parliaments' adaptation to ESM decision-making and their reform preferences regarding the Article-13 conference.[1] The focus will be on formal rights directly related to the ESM, disregarding informal parliamentary behaviour and rights that derive indirectly from domestic parliamentary prerogatives. In line with the previous chapters,

Table 7.1 Classification of parliamentary rights in ESM decision-making

ESM: Approval rights

ESM: Information rights

0

Weak

The government does not require parliamentary approval before making ESM- decisions.

Weak

The parliament has ESM-specific information rights or receives only rare government reports (quarterly or less often).

1

Moderate

The government needs parliamentary approval before making a sub-set of important ESM- decisions* or the parliament has other limited participation rights (e.g. committee discussions with the government prior to ESM votes).

Moderate

The government regularly reports on ESM affairs and documents. The extent and timing of reporting is not specified in more detail, or the parliament received additional information only on own initiative.

2

Strong

The government requires parliamentary approval before all important ESM-decisions.*

Strong

The government reports comprehensively and immediately on all ESM affairs.

Note: * Important decisions are in particular about: new financial aid programmes, new 'memoranda of understanding', the payment of tranches of existing aid programmes, the choice and change of instruments of existing aid programmes, the call-in of callable shares. Parliaments rights regarding the ratification of revisions of the ESM treaty are not considered.

Source: Rittberger and Winzen (2015a).

the analysis includes only lower houses of parliament such as the German Bundestag or the British House of Commons. We classify parliamentary adaptation to ESM-decision-making on the basis of the scheme in Table 7.1. The table distinguishes three grades of adaptation: (0) weak, (1) moderate, and (2) strong adaptation. A more fine-grained classification is not advisable against the background of difficulties in obtaining the necessary information from all countries and to ensure cross-national comparability. On the basis of this classification, we can also generate an index that adds up the levels of strength of approval and information rights and, thus, ranges from zero (weak approval and information rights) to four (strong approval and information rights). The index makes it possible to compare the overall adaptation effort of member parliaments. Furthermore, it assumes that parliamentarians can alternately rely on information and approval rights to a certain extent. Yet, they need both types of prerogatives to develop their institutions' role in ESM decisionmaking to the fullest.

Figure 7.1 compares parliamentary information and approval rights and the additive index across countries. To begin with, parliamentarians can create rights to secure their participation in relevant decisions, such as on the creation of new aid programmes for other countries or the continuation of existing aid programmes. In some countries of the Eurozone, governments are obliged to obtain parliamentary approval for their intended voting behaviour before all important ESM decisions. Yet, as Figure 7.1 shows, far from widespread, this practice exists only in Austria, Estonia, Germany, and, to a lesser extent, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The German ESM-law,

Parliamentary rights in ESM decision-making Source

Figure 7.1 Parliamentary rights in ESM decision-making Source: Rittberger and Winzen (2015a).

for instance, makes a positive parliamentary decision the condition for the government agreeing to any ESM decision.[2] In the Netherlands, parliament and government have agreed to hold a discussion on the government's position before ESM decisions, albeit without a binding parliamentary vote. A binding vote is only required before the government transfers committed but not yet paid capital to the ESM.[3]

Further, parliamentarians face the challenge to ensure access to information on documents and negotiation processes of the ESM. Access to information is not only essential for the effective and well-informed exercise of parliamentary approval rights, but also for the political evaluation of the government's behaviour by parliamentarians and parliamentary parties. Yet, as in the case of approval rights, Figure 7.1 shows that only half of the Eurozone-parliaments enjoy formally guaranteed access to ESM information. Only the German Bundestag, the Austrian Nationalrat, and the Dutch Tweede Kamer have far- reaching rights. Whereas Estonia, Luxembourg, Italy, and Portugal have at least moderate information rights, the remaining national parliaments have not adapted institutionally to the ESM.

The additive index shows that only Austrian and German parliamentarians have developed their institutional rights to the fullest extent. Their colleagues in the Netherlands, Estonia, and, to a lesser extent, Luxembourg have also established participation and information rights, albeit with limitations in either one or both of these types of rights. In Portugal and Italy, we find parliaments with moderate information rights only. The remaining Eurozone countries have not created any explicit formal role for the parliament in ESM decision-making.

Finally, parliamentarians of different member states disagree on the design of the Article-13 conference envisaged in the TSCG (see Figure 7.2). Whereas

Parliamentary preferences on the Article-13 conference Source

Figure 7.2 Parliamentary preferences on the Article-13 conference Source: Rittberger and Winzen (2015a).

the creation of the conference in itself has not caused controversy, parliaments have different views on two facets of the conference's mandate. First, how broad or narrow should the conference's coverage be in terms of issues and policy areas? Second, is it desirable that this new forum for interparliamentary cooperation receives an organizational support structure of its own or rather works on the basis of existing structures? Whereas one group of parliaments—primarily the Baltic, Nordic, and Central and East European ones—explicitly opposes any reinforcement of currently existing structures of inter-parliamentary cooperation, another group—from the EU's founding members and selected additional countries—advocates the creation of new support structures as well as a broad conference mandate extending beyond questions of budgetary discipline to all matters covered in the ES.

  • [1] The analysis relies on information that was publicly available in mid-July 2014. Later reformsare not covered. At the end of the book, the section on data sources lists our sources forparliamentary rights in ESM decision-making, and for parliamentary preferences regarding theArticle-13 conference.
  • [2] See Bundesgesetzblatt Jahrgang 2012 Teil I Nr. 43, Gesetz zur finanziellen Beteiligung amEuropaischen Stabilitatsmechanismus (ESM-Finanzierungsgesetz—ESMFinG), of 13 September 2012,paragraphs 4-6.
  • [3] See Kamerstuk 21501-07, Nr. 942, Brief van de Minister van Financi'en, of 13 September 2012.
 
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