EPRSauthor By / January 20, 2014

EU subsidiarity check by National Parliaments

The position of national parliaments in the EU was strengthened in various ways by the Lisbon Treaty in order to enhance…

© Dragun / Fotolia
EU subsidiarity check by National Parliaments
© Dragun / Fotolia

The position of national parliaments in the EU was strengthened in various ways by the Lisbon Treaty in order to enhance democratic legitimacy. Protocol 2 of the Lisbon Treaty introduced a mechanism of subsidiarity scrutiny by national parliaments on draft EU legislation. The so called early warning system including the yellow and orange card procedures give them a direct role in assessing compliance of draft legislation with the principle of subsidiarity (TEU art. 5). The chambers of national parliaments may each give a reasoned opinion and collectively they can influence the legislative procedure if a certain threshold is attained in the set time limit.

National parliaments have so far twice collectively opposed  to European Commission proposals by giving a yellow card. The first time, the threshold was reached in May 2012 in the case of the Commission’s legislative proposal on the right to strike (Monti II). The Commission withdrew the proposal some months later. In November, national parliaments objected to the proposal to establish a European Public Prosecutor’s Office.


Bicameral or Tricameral? National Parliaments and Representative Democracy in the European Union / Ian Cooper, ARENA, Centre for European Studies, University of Oslo, Norway, Journal of European integration, 2013, v. 35, n. 5, p. 531-546, 17 p. The possibility to collectively raise subsidiarity-based objections to new EU legislative proposals has significantly enlarged the role of national parliaments in EU-level decision-making. The author argues that the power of national parliaments to intervene formally in EU’s legislative process and thus play a role alongside the EP and the Council makes them the “virtual third chamber” of the EU. The author examines democratic representation and the early warning system from different perspectives.

The conduct of subsidiarity checks of EU legislative proposals by national parliaments: analysis, observations and practical recommendations / Philipp Kiiver, ERA-Forum: scripta iuris europaei 2012 v. 12, n. 4 March, p.[535]-547, 12 p. Both legal and empirical dimensions of the early warning system are examined in this study. It concentrates on the principle of subsidiarity and other principles to be addressed in opinions of national parliaments.

National parliaments within the EU polity: no longer losers but hardly victorious / Adam Cygan, ERA-Forum: scripta iuris europaei 2012 v. 12, n. 4 March, p.[517]-533, 15 p. This article focuses on the improved position of national parliaments in EU policy-making by analysing the yellow and orange card procedures. It highlights that national parliaments have so far had a tendency to emphasise domestic scrutiny and ministerial accountability rather than trying to influence directly at EU level, and it estimates that the impact of these new arrangements on accountability and legitimacy will be modest.

COSAC is the Conference for Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the EU. It involves the European Parliament and Committees of European Affairs in Member State parliaments. The national parliaments of EU candidate countries may also participate. COSAC holds biannual meetings and publishes reports on EU procedures and practices. For the latest (20th) report and other related information, see the COSAC website.

IPEX is the platform for EU inter-parliamentary information exchange. It is the tool used by national parliaments to share information on EU affairs and coordinate the procedures for monitoring compliance with the subsidiarity principle. Among other features IPEX contains a database with national scrutiny pages related to legislative proposals and consultation documents.

European institutions

The European Parliament intranet (section for European Parliament DG Presidency Directorate for Relations with National Parliaments) offers access to the Connect database which gives the views of national parliaments in the context of subsidiarity check. Reasoned opinions and other contributions from national parliaments are displayed with the legislative proposal, and are in year order. The database provides links to the full text of reasoned opinions and other documents from national parliaments as well as basic information about the legislative proposal, with links to the OEIL Legislative observatory and IPEX databases. In addition to the subsidiarity check, the database provides documents related to the informal political dialogue with national parliaments which cover subjects not included in the checking procedure. The EP Directorate for Relations with National Parliaments has its internet site, which, among other topics, provides information on the subsidiarity check by national parliaments.

The European Commission’s website on national parliament opinions offers information on the dialogue between the Commission and national parliaments.

 The Committee of the Regions (CoR) has established a Subsidiarity Monitoring Network and a website which provides diverse information on subsidiarity. It contains separate subsections on its role in EU decision-making, including different policy areas, and its evolution from the Maastricht to Lisbon Treaties.

Furthermore the CoR website hosts the REGPEX database, which enables regional parliaments to better coordinate their participation in subsidiarity analysis in the context of the early warning system. It contains procedural files with basic information on the procedure and related opinions of regional parliaments.

National and regional mechanisms

National Parliaments’ internal procedures for subsidiarity checks / DG Presidency Directorate for relations with national parliaments, April 2013, 19 p.
This document presents the internal procedures followed by each national parliament/chamber for the adoption and transmission of reasoned opinions. These procedures and related additional information are presented in table form.

National Parliaments and EU law-making: how is the ‘yellow card’ system working? / Vaughne Miller, House of Commons Library Standard Note:SN/IA/6297, 12 April 2012, 20 p.
This text explains the enhanced role of national parliaments in EU-level policy-making after the Lisbon Treaty, with a special focus on the yellow card mechanism and UK parliamentary procedures related to it.

Sleeping Beauty awakens: the Italian parliament and the EU after the Lisbon Treaty / Raffaello Matarazzo, Jacopo Leone, The International Spectator 2011, v. 46, n. 3, September, p. [129]-144, 16 p.
This article starts with a presentation of the early warning system of yellow and orange cards in general. Then it examines the participation of the Italian parliament in these new scrutiny mechanisms at EU level and analyses the influence of the Italian parliament on the national government in EU affairs.

Subnational parliaments in EU policy control: explaining the variations across Europe / Karolina Boronska-Hryniewiecka, EUI RSCAS; 2013/38 , 2013, 29 p.
The scope of this study is the parliamentary activity of subnational legislative chambers in the post-Lisbon institutional context. The early warning system is in the spotlight but other more informal forms of participation are also examined. Comparative approach covers Germany, Spain and the UK. The aim of this study is to discover factors explaining different levels of engagement among subnational parliaments in EU subsidiarity scrutiny mechanism.

Regions and Subsidiarity in the European Union: A Look at the Role of the Spanish and other Regional Parliaments in the Monitoring of Compliance with the Principle of Subsidiarity / Sergio Alonso de León, European Public Law, 2012, v. 18, n. 2, p. 305-321, 17 p.
The focus of this article is on the regional dimension of the principle of subsidiarity. It examines the possibility of regional parliaments to be involved in EU subsidiarity check in Spain. It presents the current Spanish mechanisms and gives an overview of similar procedures in place in other countries, such as Germany, Austria, Italy and Portugal.

The role of Regional Parliaments in the Process of Subsidiarity Analysis within the Early Warning System of the Lisbon Treaty / Gracia Vara Arribas, Delphine Bourdin, European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA) and European Center for the Regions (ECR), the study has been commissioned by the Committee of the Regions, 2011, 202 p.
This study analyses the early warning system with a focus on the participation of regional parliaments.


National Parliaments and their Role in European Integration: The EU’s Democratic Deficit in Times of Economic Hardship and Political Insecurity / Marta Zalewska and Oskar Josef Gstrein , Bruges Political Research Papers – College of Europe, 40, 2013
This article presents and analyses the influence of national parliaments in shaping EU legislation. Scrutiny of the subsidiarity principle is at the heart of these powers. The authors also address EU’s decision-making related to the economic crises and its legitimacy from the perspective of national parliaments.

Regional Governance, Subsidiarity and Accountability within the EUs Multi-Level Polity / Adam Cygan, European Public Law, 2013, v. 19, n. 1, p. 161-188, 19 p.
The role of the Committee of the Regions in monitoring subsidiarity of EU legislative proposals in examined in this text. The article examines the growth of regional autonomy in the EU and its influence in the accountability of the Community Method and soft law.

The early warning system for the principle of subsidiarity : constitutional theory and empirical reality / Kiiver, Philipp , London: Routledge, 2012 EP Library – Brussels
This book analyses different dimensions of the early warning system and the principle of subsidiarity in the EU. The evaluation covers the institutional and procedural logic of the system, its material scope and aspects related to accountability. It also provides a legal review and analysis on constitutional issues related to the system.

Subsidiarity : A Political and Legal Analysis / Paul Graig, Journal of common market studies, 2012, v. 50, n. 1, p. 72-87, 16 p.
This article reviews the principle of subsidiarity from a political and legal perspective. It starts with an analysis of the application of the principle pre-Lisbon and post-Lisbon. It continues with legal and political challenges influencing the concept of subsidiarity in European integration. The judicial review assesses how the European Court of Justice monitors and applies the principle of subsidiarity.

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