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Home arrow Political science arrow Constitutional preferences and parliamentary reform: explaining national parliaments adaptation to European integration


The chapter set out to investigate parliamentary reactions to new challenges and reform opportunities created by recent institutional reforms of the Eurozone, the creation of the ESM and the conclusion of the TSCG that entails the invitation to national parliaments to set up an inter-parliamentary conference. Advancing a perspective focusing on constitutional preferences, I argued that the party compositions of the member states' parliaments would seek to secure significant rights in ESM decision-making in particular to the extent that 'their' institution enjoys significant prerogatives in the domestic budgetary process. Where this is the case, domestic policy-makers deem significant reforms the appropriate reaction to the challenges posed by the ESM in light of the distribution of budgetary authority that they are familiar with from domestic politics. Existing institutions in the budgetary domain as well as existing EU-related oversight institutions should further depress parliamentary support for strong inter-parliamentary cooperation in the context of the TSCG's Article-13 conference. Such cooperation is incompatible with, and threatens to distract resources from a domestic focus of parliamentary rights in and beyond EU affairs. The conflict between federal and intergovernmental constitutional preferences was expected to matter less than institutions in the case at hand, first, because parties tending towards the latter would welcome the strongly intergovernmental characteristics of the ESM and be less inclined to enhance parliamentary competences compared to previous treaty reforms that moved the EU in a federal direction. Federally-oriented parties, in turn, should seek domestic parliamentary adaptation more than previously given that they cannot take comfort in the empowerment of the EP, in line with insights from the study of the Dutch parliament in Chapter 5. Second, as argued in Chapter 6, both federalist and intergovernmentally oriented parties and parliamentarians will be sceptical of inter-parliamentary cooperation—the former because they regard it as a threat to their main goal of empowering the EP; the latter because it is out of touch with their understanding of what national parliamentary rights should focus on in the EU, namely on domestic oversight.

While the empirical analysis based on a small number of observations necessarily has limits, it nonetheless largely supports the arguments. As expected, budgetary institutions are the most important factor shaping parliamentary adaptation to the ESM. EU-related oversight institutions constrain parliamentary support for a broad mandate of the Article-13 conference. Parties' constitutional preferences do not play a role regarding ESM adaptation or support for inter-parliamentary cooperation. While I expected also to find an effect of domestic budget rights on whether parliaments seek a broad or narrow inter-parliamentary conference mandate, no such effect appears to exist. This finding reinforces the impression obtained in Chapter 6 that the strength of EU-related oversight institutions, first and foremost, accounts for whether parliamentarians do or do not welcome robust inter-parliamentary cooperation. The existence of strong EU-related oversight institutions is the clearest indication that parliamentary parties and parliamentarians see 'their' institutions' place in EU affairs in a focus on domestic oversight. Domestic opportunities to engage with the EU, further, render the added value of a direct European role questionable. Alternative issue-specific explanations appear to affect parliamentary support for inter-parliamentary cooperation in addition to institutional factors. However, as in previous chapters, arguments that build on party political problems under minority and coalition government have less explanatory power than an account based on institutions and constitutional preferences.

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