MEPs defend interparliamentary cooperation
Members of the European Parliament have reiterated their support for the Polish EU Presidency’s efforts to work out an agreement between national parliaments and the EP on setting up an interparliamentary conference for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), in keeping with Articles 9 and 10 of Protocol No 1 to the Lisbon Treaty. Adopted on 7 July in plenary in Strasbourg, the resolution reiterates more generally the need to “reinforce parliamentary influence over the political choices” made by the EU and its member states.
The creation of such a structure is urgent insofar as the Western European Union (WEU) and its European Security and Defence Assembly – the body that ensured follow-up by national parliaments of ESDP – ceased to exist on 30 June.
National MPs and members of the EP adopted the principle of an interparliamentary conference for CFSP-ESDP at the latest Conference of Speakers of EU Parliaments, in April, but the negotiations are stumbling mainly on its size and the extent of the EP’s involvement. The diverging views reflect an ideological split between, on the one hand, those who emphasise the intergovernmental dimension of CFSP-ESDP policies and who consequently defend control by national parliaments alone, and on the other, parliamentarians who wish to include the European dimension. According to one observer, the basic problem resides in the absence of a clear definition of the mandate for this conference.
During a debate ahead of the vote on the text, Andrew Duff (ALDE, UK) did not hesitate to denounce certain members of Britain’s parliament, “who still seem to be in denial on the Lisbon Treaty,” which granted certain competences to the EP in CFSP-ESDP, in particular on budgetary control. However, “there are questions tied to the military aspects that are national responsibilities,” pointed out Elmar Brok (EPP, Germany). “We will have to inform each other mutually to be effective.” More specifically, on defence policy, Reinhard Bütikofer (Greens-EFA, Germany) said that “if we really want to be taken seriously by our fellow national MPs, then we absolutely have to be more effective”.
From an organisational point of view, the EP recommends, for instance, the participation of members of national parliaments’ foreign affairs committees, not European affairs committees. On the touchy subject of the representative nature of this body, the WEU Assembly proposed a representation that does not exceed one third of its total members, since the national parliaments are expected to be represented by two, four, six or eight members (report of 28 March 2011). There is said to be consensus on the participation of around 25 members.