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Chapter

Cover Comparative European Politics

5. Democracy and the EU  

Tapio Raunio

This chapter examines the relationship between European integration and democracy. The continuous transfer of policy-making powers from European Union (EU) member states to the European level has raised serious concerns about democratic legitimacy. The chapter assesses the claims that European integration undermines national democracy, and that decision-making at the EU level is not sufficiently democratic. It argues that while significant challenges remain, European integration has definitely become more democratic over the years. But there is perhaps a trade-off, with stronger input legitimacy potentially an obstacle to efficient European-level decision-making. It also underlines the multilevel nature of the EU polity and the importance of public debates about European integration.

Chapter

Cover Exploring Parliament

10. EU Legislation  

Ed Beale, Libby Kurien, and Eve Samson

This chapter examines the ways in which the UK Parliament formally constrains the government and engages with European Union (EU) institutions. The House of Lords and the House of Commons both have processes to ensure that legislation proposed at the EU level has been properly reviewed before it takes effect in UK law. The ‘scrutiny reserve’, which stipulates that ministers should not agree to proposals under scrutiny, is used to elicit information about the government's negotiating position. Parliament also has a role in examining EU legislation and providing direct access to European institutions. The chapter first provides an overview of the EU legislative process, focusing on three principal EU institutions: member states, the European Parliament (EP), and the European Commission. It also considers the formal role of national parliaments in the EU legislative process, the UK Parliament's scrutiny of the EU legislation and its effectiveness, and parliamentary scrutiny after Brexit.

Chapter

Cover International Relations and the European Union

9. Legitimate and Democratic? The European Union’s International Role  

Christopher Lord

This chapter examines the legitimacy and democratic control of the European Union's international policies. It first explains why, with whom, and by what standards the EU's international role need to be legitimate before discussing the issue of democratic control involving the European Parliament (EP) and national parliaments. More specifically, it considers the member states' mantra that the legitimacy of EU decisions is ‘founded on the principle of representative democracy’, delivered through the representation of citizens in the EP and national democracies in the European Council, the Councils, and their own national parliaments. It also emphasizes the great variety in the EU's international policy procedures and concludes by assessing how legitimacy might enable or constrain the development of the EU as an international actor.

Chapter

Cover Politics in the European Union

11. The EU in Crisis (2009–19)  

This chapter examines the crises that dominated the period after the Lisbon Treaty was adopted in 2009: first, the eurozone crisis that began in 2009 and threatened the existence of the single currency; second, the refugee crisis that unfolded from 2015 as large numbers of refugees fled an intensifying war in Syria and attempted perilous crossings of the Mediterranean Sea; third, Britain’s decision to leave the EU, which followed a referendum on membership in 2016; and finally, the challenge of populist politics in the EU, with reference to the emergence of governments led by or including populist parties in Hungary, Poland, and Italy. The chapter then considers other developments during this period, including elections to the European Parliament (EP) in 2014 and 2019, a further enlargement to include Croatia in 2013, and the launch of the ‘Europe 2020’ strategy. It also looks at the United Kingdom’s adoption of a series of measures that raised doubts about its future relationship with the EU.

Chapter

Cover Politics in the European Union

15. The European Parliament  

This chapter focuses on the European Parliament (EP), the one directly elected institution of the European Union. It first provides an overview of the EP’s composition and functions, before discussing the struggle for increased powers within the EP. It then considers debates and research on the EP. The focus of contemporary research on the EP includes political behaviour and EP elections, the internal politics and organization of the EP, and inter-institutional bargaining between the EP, the European Council, and the European Commission. One theme of the academic debate is the extent to which the EP has become an effective independent actor in the affairs of the EU.

Chapter

Cover International Relations and the European Union

4. The Institutional Framework  

Sophie Vanhoonacker and Karolina Pomorska

This chapter focuses on the European Union (EU) as a ‘power’ on the world stage. The institutional context of the external relations of the EU is complex, it argues. The roles of various places, such as the Council, Commission, European Parliament (E), and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) differ significantly depending on the policy area under consideration. The marked variations reflect the differing paths of evolution and the various degrees of integration these institutions have experienced in terms of different areas of external policy. This chapter focuses on the institutional basis of international policy in the EU. It asks how we should think about the roles of institutions and looks at some of the key ideas around EU international policy.

Chapter

Cover European Union Politics

12. The European Parliament  

Charlotte Burns

This chapter focuses on the European Parliament (EP), an institution that has been transformed from being a relatively powerless institution into one that is able to have a genuine say in the legislative process and hold the European Union’s executive bodies to account. However, increases in the Parliament’s formal powers have not been matched by an increase in popular legitimacy: decreasing turnout in European elections up to 2014 turned around in 2019, but an increasing share of the vote is now going to populist Eurosceptic parties. The EP’s legislative power is comparable to that of many national parliaments, but it has struggled to connect with the wider European public. The chapter explores these issues: the EP’s evolution from talking shop to co-legislator; its powers and influence; its internal structure and organization, with a focus on the role and behaviour of the political groups. Finally, the EP’s representative function as the EU’s only directly elected institution is discussed.

Chapter

Cover The Institutions of the European Union

6. The European Parliament:  

powerful but fragmented

Ariadna Ripoll Servent and Olivier Costa

The European Parliament (EP) symbolizes many of the struggles that characterize the process of European integration and is at the core of many theoretical and empirical debates about representation, accountability, and legitimacy. This chapter draws on a variety of theoretical approaches to explain the complex role the EP plays in the political system of the European Union (EU). It starts with a brief overview of the history and functions of the assembly, followed by a theoretical explanation of its empowerment over time. Then, it determines the extent to which the EP is capable of influencing policymaking, both in legislative and non-legislative domains, as well as for the appointment of the Commission. It presents the political structure of the assembly and underlines the role of parliamentary groups and committees. It discusses the representativeness of the EP and the democratic quality of its internal functioning. Finally, it addresses current and future challenges for the EP.

Chapter

Cover Origins and Evolution of the European Union

14. The European Union  

A Constitutional Order in the Making

Berthold Rittberger

This chapter examines how the European Union acquired distinctive constitution-like features. It begins with a discussion of three routes to constitutionalization: the first is through changes in the EU's primary law; the second focuses on ‘in between’ constitutionalization; and the third leads directly to the European Court of Justice and its jurisprudence. The chapter proceeds by discussing two developments that have shaped the EU constitutional order almost since the beginning: the emergence of a body of EU law constituting a set of higher-order legal rules, and the consolidation of the constitutional principle of representative democracy. It explains how the supremacy and direct effect of EU law, as well as the EU court's concern with the protection of fundamental rights, helped transform the EU into a constitutional polity. It also considers how the extension of the legislative, budgetary, and other powers of the European Parliament animated the constitutional principle.

Chapter

Cover The Institutions of the European Union

4. The Council of the European Union:  

co-legislator, coordinator, and executive power

Uwe Puetter

The Council is an institution of day-to-day policymaking in which the interests of member state governments are represented by cabinet ministers who meet, according to their policy portfolio, in different Council configurations and within the Eurogroup. According to the Treaty of Lisbon, the Council has a dual mandate. It acts as a legislative organ as well as an executive and policy-coordinating institution. This dual role is reflected in the organization and meeting practices of the different Council configurations. Those groupings of ministers dealing primarily with executive decisions and policy coordination tend to meet more often and are regarded as being more senior than those formations of the Council which engage predominantly in legislative decision-making. As a legislative institution, the Council has increasingly acquired features of an upper chamber in a bicameral separation of powers system, working in tandem with the European Parliament. In contrast, Council decision-making relating to executive issues and policy coordination in important policy domains, such as economic governance and foreign policy, is closely aligned with the European Council. In these areas, the Council can be considered to constitute, together with the Commission, a collective EU executive.

Chapter

Cover Politics in the European Union

10. From Amsterdam to Lisbon (2000–09)  

This chapter examines the new strategy adopted in March 2000 by a special European Council in Lisbon to make the European Union (EU) more competitive, culminating in the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon. The Amsterdam Treaty had scarcely entered into force before further Treaty reform emerged on the agenda. Throughout the year 2000, a new intergovernmental conference met to address outstanding institutional issues that had not been settled at Amsterdam. It concluded in December 2000 with the longest European Council in history, which led to the Treaty of Nice. The chapter first considers the Nice Treaty, before discussing the Lisbon Strategy, the European Security and Defence Policy, the Constitutional Treaty, the issue of enlargement, the European Parliament (EP), and the nomination of a new European Commission. It ends with a discussion of the Treaty of Lisbon.

Chapter

Cover The Member States of the European Union

13. Europeanization and Member State Institutions  

Hussein Kassim and Vanessa Buth

This chapter examines the impact of Europeanization on member state institutions. Membership in the European Union imposes a variety of constraints and burdens on countries, but it also affords important opportunities and makes available significant resources. Integration initially reinforced the decline of national legislatures, but they have fought back in the last decade. National courts have assumed new functions and become part of a wider Community of law. At the same, the precise effects of the EU have varied cross-nationally as the demands of membership have interacted with differing constitutional arrangements, legal traditions, and political cultures. Moreover, national institutions such as governments, parliaments, and courts have left their mark on the EU and determine to a large extent the capacities of the Union as a system. The chapter considers how EU membership has affected national governments, national parliaments, and national courts.

Chapter

Cover Policy-Making in the European Union

13. Environmental Policy  

Contending Dynamics of Policy Change

Andrea Lenschow

This chapter focuses on the European Union’s environmental policy, the development of which was characterized by institutional deepening and the substantial expansion of environmental issues covered by EU decisions and regulations. Environmental policy presents a host of challenges for policy-makers, including the choice of appropriate instruments, improvement of implementation performance, and better policy coordination at all levels of policy-making. The chapter points to the continuing adaptations that have been made in these areas. It first considers the historical evolution of environmental policy in the EU before discussing the main actors in EU environmental policy-making, namely: the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament, the Court of Justice of the European Union, and environmental interest groups. The chapter also looks at the EU as an international actor.

Chapter

Cover Politics in the European Union

12. The Institutional Architecture  

This chapter examines the pattern of European Union (EU) institutions and the formal rules that govern them. It first considers the Treaties that form the founding ‘constitutional’ documents of the EU, from the Treaty of Paris to the Treaty on Stability, Co-ordination and Governance in the economic and monetary union (EMU), before turning to the main institutions involved in the processes of decision making, namely: the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, and the European Parliament, plus two consultative committees, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. The chapter proceeds by analysing the Union method of decision making, focusing on the budgetary and legislative procedures, as well as the process on the Common Foreign and Security Policy. It also discusses the implementation of EU decisions once they have been made, and concludes with some reflections on the post-Lisbon institutional architecture of the EU, including differentiated integration.

Chapter

Cover The Institutions of the European Union

15. European parties:  

a powerful caucus in the European Parliament and beyond

Tapio Raunio

The party system of the European Parliament (EP) has been dominated by the two main European party families: centre-right conservatives and Christian democrats, on the one hand, and centre-left social democrats on the other, which controlled the majority of the seats until the 2019 elections. In the early 1950s, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) decided to form party-political groups, instead of national blocs, to counterbalance the dominance of national interests in the Council. Over the decades, the shape of the EP party system has become more stable, and traditional levels of group cohesion and coalition formation have not really been affected by the rise of populism and the increasing politicization of European integration. National parties remain influential within party groups, not least through their control of candidate selection. Outside of the Parliament, Europarties—parties operating at the European level—influence both the broader development of integration and the choice of the Commission president.

Chapter

Cover The European Union

6. Democracy in the EU  

Richard Corbett and Daniel Kenealy

This chapter examines the democratic credentials of the EU. Beginning with a discussion of the idea of democracy beyond the state, it explores academic debates about whether the EU suffers a ‘democratic deficit’. The chapter evaluates the EU along various dimensions, including how powers are separated and divided within the EU, the extent to which executive accountability is established, and the various mechanisms of representation in the EU. It explores the nature of European elections, the role of European political parties, the role of national parliaments in EU policy-making and recent innovations in the way that the president of the European Commission is chosen. The chapter concludes with a discussion of fundamental rights, values, and the rule of the law in the EU with a particular focus on recent developments in Hungary and Poland.